Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Into the big deep

A caver in the Stormy Pot system.
Cavers hoping to link two caving systems in Mt Arthur are excited to find they are now only 20 metres away from finding a way to join the systems and potentially unlocking the deepest explored cave in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fifteen cavers, including some of New Zealand's top cavers, surfaced recently after spending eight days exploring the Stormy Pot system. Cavers hope to link it to the nearby Nettlebed Cave system, which comes out at the Pearse Resurgence, in the Pearse Valley, Motueka.

Caver Kieran McKay said the co-ordinates of the areas the cavers had mapped on the eight-day expedition were entered into the computer once they were above ground. They were extremely excited to discover they had come within 20m of linking the two systems. Underground they had not realised how tantalisingly close they were. "It's big progress, but we don't quite have that connection yet."

Mr McKay said if the two systems linked the cave would be of national and international significance. Joining the systems could take the mapped cave to a depth of 1200m, making it the deepest cave in New Zealand, and one of the deepest three trips in the world.

Jewel Cave opens to tours after three-week closure

Jewel Cave National Monument has re-opened the cave for interpretive tours after a three-week closure for elevator maintenance.

Tours resumed Tuesday, according to a news release from the monument.

Jewel Cave is the second longest cave in the world and offers two tours during the winter season. The scenic tour is offered twice daily. The discovery tour, 20 minutes long, is offered three times a day. Jewel Cave is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. For more information or to make reservations, go to www.nps.gov/jeca.

NCKRI job opening announcement: searching for a fund raiser

Dear Friends,

The National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) is hiring a new Advancement Director. Ann Dowdy has done a wonderful job establishing the foundation of NCKRI's Advancement Program, but needs to leave for personal reasons. She is able to generously give us substantial advance notice to minimize the time that the position will be vacant. Her successor will continue fund raising for NCKRI and marketing its programs.

I'm sending you this message because of your interest in caves, karst, and NCKRI. While many of you won't be interested in the job for yourselves, please forward this note to anyone you think may be interested. You are also welcome to post it on websites and in newsletters. The announcement has also been sent to newspapers and various websites. We are accepting applications until 26 April 2012.

The job announcement is posted at http://www.nmt.edu/images/stories/hr/pdfs/advdirnckri12222-020.pdf. NCKRI is administered by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The employment application form is at http://www.nmt.edu/images/stories/hr/pdfs/employment_nmt.pdf, but it must be mailed, not e-mailed, along with resumes and any other supporting material. The job will be stationed at NCKRI headquarters in Carlsbad, New Mexico. If you have questions, please contact Karla Montoya at kmontoya@admin.nmt.edu or (575) 835-6962. Caving experience or advanced knowledge of caves and karst, while certainly welcome and helpful, are not required for this job. The Advancement Director will play a vital role in generating funds and support to continue building NCKRI's staff and programs, which includes assisting NCKRI's friends and partners whenever possible.

Thank you,
George Veni, Ph.D.
Executive Director National Cave and Karst Research Institute
400-1 Cascades Avenue
Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220-6215 USA
Office: 575-887-5517
Fax: 575-887-5523
gveni@nckri.org
www.nckri.org

Video: Discovery of Prehistoric Cave

A nice French video documentary in which Mr. Tridat of Margueron tells us how he accidentally discovered the prehistoric cave which was under his barn and shows us around the premises, all accompanied by pictures taken at the time of discovery.


Archeology Documentary Relies on Litepanels

Stephen Bean relied on Litepanels to shoot deep underground.
“Dark, dangerous and wet” is how cinematographerStephen Beandescribes the working conditions during his most recent film project, a documentary titled The Undo Cave expedition 2011. Bean works at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland and is responsible for the ENG/EFP section of the film unit there. Together with an international team of archeology students and scientists from UCC, Bean traveled to the Republic of Georgia to document the work of archaeologists in their search for Paleolithic DNA. They were accompanied by three MicroPro LED camera lights from Litepanels.

Bean has made research documentaries his specialty and has already shot numerous archeology films under extreme conditions. However, the documentary in the Undo Cave in the southern Caucasus still proved to be a great challenge for the cinematographer. “To make filming in the complete darkness of the cave passages possible at all, we had to rely on dependable lighting equipment,” said Bean. “That’s why the MicroPro camera light by Litepanels was the perfect companion for our project.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Indianapolis airport awards ISU contract to study bats

The Indianapolis International Airport has awarded a nearly $505,000 contract to Indiana State University to track the bats that live or roost on hundreds of acres of airport land.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that the airport’s 2-year contract awarded this month boosts to $2.5 million the amount the airport has paid ISU since 2004 to track the flying mammals as is required under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The airport must monitor and report its findings each year until 2017 on the endangered Indiana bat and eight other bat species.

ISU biology professor John Whitaker says the school’s work at the airport on Indianapolis’ southwest side has generated a treasure trove of information on bats and how to best accommodate them, particularly the Indiana bat.

Source: Tribstar

Surveying software Auriga 2.03 released

Auriga is a cave survey freeware for PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) running under Palm OS. Auriga is designed for in-cave use as a smart survey notebook: as the survey goes, Auriga displays the line plot in graphical form, reports statistics, helps spot and fix survey errors and assists in sketching to scale. Bidirectional data exchange with Compass and Visual Topo is automated.

As of 24 February version 2.03 is available for download here.

Continue reading to see what's new.

Yucatan Cave Dive Expedition

More cave diving exploration on the Yucatan peninsula. this time a nice video from Anders Knudsen, Natalie Gibb and Vincent Rouquette Cathala.


'Naked Archaeologist' finds signs Jerusalem cave was used to bury Jesus' disciples

Enhanced image of 'Jonah and the Whale' found in a
Jerusalem burial cave.
Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy-winning documentary director and producer, hopes findings of current explorations will substantiate his earlier theory that Jesus was buried in a nearby cave.

Under an ordinary residential building in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, a robotic arm with a camera inserted into a Second Temple-era burial cave has revealed mysterious inscriptions and drawings on ossuaries.

Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy-winning documentary director and producer who is best known for his documentary TV series "The Naked Archaeologist," argues that the cave served as a burial cave for at least some of Jesus' disciples.

Jacobovici is exploring the cave for his latest documentary project, backed by the Discovery Channel, and hopes his findings substantiate his earlier theory that a nearby cave is the one where Jesus was buried. He made that claim in a previous documentary, and said the theory was backed up by the names found on the ossuaries, or receptacles for bones, in the cave.

The discoveries could potentially have revolutionary implications for the understanding of early Christianity and of Jesus as a historical figure.

Expedition News: Czech cave divers enlarge Ko'ox Baal system to 62 km

Beginning this year Karst Worlds reported how Czech cave divers made a connection between Ko'ox Baal and Tux Kupaxa, located on the Yucatan peninsula, resulting in worlds fourth longest underwater cave at 56,5 km.

The exploration continued and they now succeeded to connect the system to another cave, called Chun Che Chen, enlarging the total lenght of the cave system to over 62 km.

Read the day by day report of the expedition at Speleo Aquanaut (CZ)

Oldest New World Cave Art Discovered

A figure engraved in the bedrock of a Brazilian cave dates back at least 10,000 years. 

Cave painting connects us with our prehistoric artist ancestors. But there’s a dearth of such illustration in the Americas. Now a cave in Brazil has been found to house the oldest New World image known.

The shelter was excavated from 2002 to 2009. In the last days there, scientists exposed a foot-high figure in the bedrock. It has a c-shaped head, two outstretched arms, two legs, and a very visible penis.

Using radiocarbon dating, the researchers dated an ash layer to between 9300 and 10,500 years ago. A hearth found about an inch above the drawing gives similar results. And the researchers used a technique called optically stimulated luminescence on sediment, which also dated to around 10-12,000 years ago.

The scientists say this makes the petroglyph the oldest reliably dated cave art in the Americas. The research was published in journal Public Library of Science One.
[WA Neves et al, Rock Art at the Pleistocene/Holocene Boundary in Eastern South America]

Echoes of this style exist in other early art in the region, amidst diverse styles throughout North and South America. The researchers the range of images reveals a spectrum of symbolic thought dating back to early in the history of human colonization of the hemisphere.

Also available as podcast: Download MP3

Source: Scientific American

Fungus killing off Canada's bats

Environment minister urged to place three species on endangered list

Canadian bats are experiencing such catastrophic die-offs - with more than 90 per cent of the creatures dying in caves in Eastern Canada - that Environment Minister Peter Kent has been advised to issue an emergency order and declare three bat species endangered.

A rapidly spreading fungus that causes white nose syndrome poses a "serious and imminent threat to the survival" of the bats, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) announced Monday.

The fungus is so deadly - and cut-ting such a huge swath through bat caves - that the national committee of wildlife experts called an emergency meeting to assess the situation. The committee has recommended to the federal environment minister is-sue an "emergency order" placing three species - the tri-coloured bat, the little brown myotis and northern myotis - on Canada's list of endangered species.

"Although information on bats and the fungal disease is somewhat limited, the evidence of population collapse and rapid spread of the disease is clear," the committee said.

Neanderthals were nearly extinct in Europe when modern humans arrived

An international team of researchers, studying ancient DNA, have suggested that most Neanderthals in Europe already were largely extinct 50,000 years ago - long before modern humans first arrived in the continent.

The findings contradict the long-held notion that Neanderthal populations were stable in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years until modern Homo sapiens arrived.

The scientists say the Neanderthal human species already had died off as early as 50,000 years ago, but a small group recovered and survived for another 10,000 years in areas of central and western Europe before modern humans entered the picture.

The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid.

"The fact that Neanderthals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought," said Love Dalen, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

Wind Cave National Park Equals Visitors and Money and Jobs

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows the 104,000 visitors who toured Wind Cave in 2010 spent $17.6 million in the park and surrounding communities. This spending supported more than 300 area jobs.

"The people and the business owners in communities near national parks have always known their economic value," said park superintendent Vidal Davila. "Wind Cave National Park is clean, green fuel for the engine that drives our local economy."

Most of the spending/jobs are related to lodging, food, and beverage service (52 percent) followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment/amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent).

The figures are based on $12 billion of direct spending by 281 million visitors in 394 national parks and nearby communities and are included in an annual, peer-reviewed, visitor spending analysis conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of Michigan State University for the National Park Service.

Across the U.S, local visitor spending added a total of $31 billion to the national economy and supported more than 258,000 jobs, an increase of $689 million and 11,500 jobs over 2009.

To download the report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM and click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

For more on how the NPS is working within South Dakota, go to www.nps.gov/southdakota

Source: NPS

20th International Karstological School "Classical karst" Karst Forms and Processes

The web page of 20th International Karstological School is now accessible at:
http://iks.zrc-sazu.si/en/index.html

There you can find basic information on the upcomming school, archives of the past schools, REGISTRATION FORM and PAYMENT DETAILS.

Poetry: Speleology

"Speleology" is a film by Duriel E. Harris and Scott Rankin, featuring poetry by Duriel E. Harris. The film was completed in October 2011. It was first screened publicly at the International Literary Film Festival in NYC, November 2011.





Source: Literary Film Festival

Monday, February 27, 2012

Scientists report first evidence of flu in bats; never-before-seen virus found in Guatemala

For the first time, scientists have found evidence of flu in bats, reporting a never-before-seen virus whose risk to humans is unclear.

The surprising discovery of genetic fragments of a flu virus is the first well-documented report of it in the winged mammals. So far, scientists haven't been able to grow it, and it's not clear if — or how well — it spreads.

Flu bugs are common in humans, birds and pigs and have even been seen in dogs, horses, seals and whales, among others. About five years ago, Russian virologists claimed finding flu in bats, but they never offered evidence.

"Most people are fairly convinced we had already discovered flu in all the possible" animals, said Ruben Donis, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who co-authored the new study.

Scientists suspect that some bats caught flu centuries ago and that the virus mutated within the bat population into this new variety. Scientists haven't even been able to grow the new virus in chicken eggs or in human cell culture, as they do with more conventional flu strains.

Antiquities officials catch thieves in ancient cave

Five would-be tomb robbers apprehended at a 2,000-year-old site near the city of Modi’in


One of the sites near Modi'in
targeted by the antiquity
theft suspects.
Israeli officers arrested five would-be antiquities thieves in a cave at an ancient site between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.

The men, West Bank Palestinians, were apprehended after a scuffle with antiquities inspectors early Saturday, according to the statement. They had been spotted scouring the site with a metal detector, and are suspected of looting other sites in the same area near the city of Modi’in.

Among those sites was one given a cryptic mention in the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as a possible location for the burial of the treasures of the Jewish Temple. According to the Antiquities Authority, that mention has made the site a popular target for thieves.

The suspects also managed to uncover a Jewish ritual bath that dates from the time of the Second Temple and was not previously known to archaeologists, according to the statement. However valuable the find, however, the men also destroyed important archaeological layers and “brought about the loss of much knowledge about the historical background of the area,” the statement said.

The men remain under arrest.

Source: Times Of Israel

Jobs in Cave Conservation

The Sequoia Natural History Association is looking for conservation minded individuals to lead tours of this unique and popular cave this summer season. Leading tours of Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park, California, is a great way to share your love of cave conservation with visitors from all around the world. We are currently hiring several Cave Naturalists who love to talk with people concerning cave topics (history, conservation, ethics, karst geology, biology, etc) in one of the most stunning settings in North America. Tour season begins mid-May and lasts through October, with our Cave Naturalist positions ranging from the full season, to anywhere in between.

For more information please check out our website: http://www.sequoiahistory.org

Applications can be downloaded there, as well as more information about Crystal Cave and our tour operations.

Our job announcement will also be found in the March and April issues of NSS News.

Thank You for your time,
Beth Hunkins, NSS #57655
Crystal Cave Manager, Sequoia Natural History Association

Trip Report Howe Caverns

Last week Karst Worlds reported how cavers could participate in a trip into Howe Caverns for a good cause. Cavechat member Nathan Roser aka muddyface was one of the participants:
So last Saturday the 25th, eighteen northeastern cavers got special access to the undeveloped upstream section of Howe's Cave to do some surveying and photography. We did all donate some money to the flood relief efforts around Schoharie as part of the whole deal. We took the normal way in through the elevator and went on the brick path to the end and then suited up. After passing through the Fat Man's Misery and to the Great Rotunda the group started splitting up. Almost everyone at one point or another went into the Lake of Mystery to push the low airspace and get to the upstream ends to survey and take pictures. Luke and I along with another SUOC member Abbe stayed behind and started snapping pictures. Soon soaking wet and cold cavers started trickling back in saying the water was high and the airspace got lower and lower (down to less than 2 inches). This pretty much killed everyone's hopes for what we all wanted to do that day. Eventually Luke, Abbe, and I decided to give the water a go. I went in first with Luke behind and then Abbe. We soon had to remove helmets and the passage did keep getting lower and lower. There were a few times my eyes went under and I swallowed some water and considered turning back, Abbe did turn back due to cold water but Luke and I kept going. At this point the way forward involved scraping your nose against the ceiling to move between wedge shaped ceiling channels that would allow you to look forward for a bit and keep your eyes above water, but not your mouth. After hopping or rather dipping between the channels I found my foot was no longer able to touch the ceiling so I went there and was finally able to stand up! Luke followed behind. At this point we wish we had brought cameras with us because we did not want to make a return trip through the water to get them. So we pushed upstream instead. This section of the cave has been mapped before but has only been visited by very few people. We encountered another low airspace that was easier than the first, then lots of belly crawling over sharp breakdown with soda straws above us. We eventually got to another low water passage and swam through. This led to a junction that was the end of the mapped passage. A previous trip reported the cave continued several hundred feet beyond. From here the cave became a very narrow stream canyon with lots of floor potholes, sketchy looking breakdown, crawling sideways, and alternating levels. This led after hundreds of feet to a pretty football shaped pool in the floor about 2 feet wide, 7 feet long and too deep for me to stand in. The pool did appear to bell out towards the bottom so if someone was insane and masochistic enough they could haul dive gear up there because it looks big enough to dive. We turned around and headed back, but were rather confused because nothing seemed familiar and we might have taken a lower level of the canyon back. After getting back to where the passage was mapped we saw some names written in the mud from 1955. We kept retracing the way back and got back to the low airspace that had stopped everyone else. At this point we'd been gone for around 2 hours and didn't want anyone to worry so I began shouting that we're safe and coming back. We got out of the water and told the story to everyone there but by now the news crews were long gone :(. The trip was pretty tough, I got some bleeding on my hand, holes in my wetsuit, and several large tears in the clothes I had on over the wetsuit. Would I do it again and survey that, yes! Then everyone began heading out while we stayed behind for a bit of fun in a side dome with lots of sticky mud. We then returned to the commercial trail, put on clean clothes and went back up the elevator to the main building. About an hour later they had a complimentary dinner ready for all the cavers and after that we got a free tour of the rest of the cave. Thanks to Chuck Porter for organizing the whole thing.

Cave and karst student scholarships

The Western Kentucky University Hoffman Environmental Research Institute is pleased to offer two new award competitions for karst education.

1. The Nick Crawford Karst Education Scholarship will provide financial support for one student per year to attend a weeklong course in WKU's 2012 Karst Field Studies program (http://karstfieldstudies.com) as a non-credit workshop or for university credit at the Western Kentucky University Karst Field Studies Program. The successful applicant will receive: 1) reimbursement on round trip travel costs to the course location up to $1000, 2) a waiver of the fees if taking the course for a workshop ($500) or $500 credited to tuition for those taking a course for graduate or undergraduate credit, 3) free shared bunkhouse accommodation at the Cave Research Foundation's Hamilton Valley Research Station near Mammoth Cave National Park where most courses are held, or $100 credit toward shared accommodation in the Missouri Ozark's or New Mexico Geophysics Courses, and 4) a $150 stipend. For an application and complete information please see http://karstfieldstudies.com/scholarship.php. The scholarship is made possible with the generous support of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, the Stan and Kay Sides Environmental Education Fund, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

2. Student Research Grant for Karst Groundwater Flow Studies
The Hoffman Institute's Crawford Hydrology Laboratory is pleased to announce a new initiative to help support student research. The Laboratory will provide an award two times per year of up to $1,000 each through a proposal competition to offer undergraduate and/or graduate research support for fluorescence laboratory products and services used in groundwater tracing investigations.

Awards will cover up to $700 for laboratory analytical costs, up to $300 applied to dye tracing supplies such as charcoal receptors, fluorescent dye, and mailing of samples.

Any full-time undergraduate or graduate student enrolled at an accredited university with an endorsement from a full-time faculty member of that university. Proposals from high school students may be considered with additional supporting documentation as described in the application packet. Applicants are eligible for the award once per calendar year.

Proposals should be limited to projects that can be completed within 12 months from the start of the project. Awards are limited to a maximum of $1,000 per project.

For application details please see http://hoffmanworld.org/dyetracing2/?page_id=579.

Bones found in cave are around 3,500 years old

Human remains dating back 3,500 years have been discovered in a cavern in the Peak District.

Part of a shin bone belonging to a Bronze Age human was found in a chamber towards the top of Blue John Cavern in Castleton by a group surveying all the Castleton caves as part of a project to produce a 3D model.

They found the four-inch section of tibia, along with an antler and a dog’s skull.

Specialist carbon dating tests have revealed the human bone is around 3,500 years old.

Dave Nixon, aged 44, of Tideswell, who was among the group which made the find, has spent the last 25 years exploring the caves and making a number of discoveries.

But he said he was delighted to have found the artefacts in a new section of the cavern they had not been into before.

“Exploring the caves is an obsession of mine and we have found various bits and pieces over the years,” he told The Star.

Proposal put to privatise caves

Cr Mike Augee, a proud advocate of the Wellington Caves believes Council has to balance the yawning gap between its business interest and that of preserving the world-class complex.

Cr Augee told councillors as trustees of the caves they had a duty of care and the same duty as councillors.

At the ordinary meeting of Wellington Council, the councillor also described to his fellow councillors the many concerns about a recent meeting as ‘soul destroying, a great disappointment and demoralising’.

The councillor supports the privatisation of the caves resources and the lease of it to an operator who can assist in marketing and promoting them.

“We are there to protect this reserve,” he told the councillors in what could be called an impassioned plea for the future direction of Wellington’s best-known site and the balance he believes can be found.

But others have problems with the future of the caves site including cave specialist Keir Vaughan Taylor who wrote to the council expressing concern.

Girl rescued from Peak district cave

A teenage girl had to be rescued from a Peak District cave after slipping and injuring her back.

The 14-year-old was part of a larger group exploring Bagshawe Cavern in Bradwell when she slipped on wet rock and fell.

Derbyshire Police took a 999 call about the incident at around 4.45pm on Sunday, February 26, and called for assistance from the Cave Rescue organisation to help get the girl out.

Cave Rescue arrived at the cave and found the girl inside with another child and two adults, with the rest of the group waiting outside. The teenager was rescued by around 7pm and an ambulance was called to take her to hospital.

Source: Derbyshire Times

Cuba’s Highest Cave Found in Sancti Spiritus

The highest cave in Cuba, that is the cave with the highest entrance, was recently discovered by specialists from the province of Sancti Spiritus, at the Guahamuaya massif, located in that province of central Cuba.

According to the Escambray newspaper's online version, the limestone cavity was named Furnia de los Perros and its entrance is located at 1,029 meters above sea level. Sancti Spirtus' president of the Cuban Speleological Society told the daily the second highest cavern is also located in the Guahamuaya massif, at 950 meters above sea level.

The Guahamuaya massif is also home to the lowest cave of the island named Cuba-Hungría, whose entrance is at 440 below sea level, and it was discovered by the Sama speleologist group from Sancti Spiritus.

This group also spotted the world's biggest stalagmite, 67 meters, at the Martín Infierno cave located in the same massif of the central province of Cuba

Source: TV Camaguëy

Sunday, February 26, 2012

1,500-year-old handwritten Bible newly-discovered in Turkey includes depiction of Last Supper

he Bible is now under the care of the Ethnography Museum.
A handwritten Bible, believed to be 1,500 years old and is recently kept in the Ethnography Museum of Turkish capital Ankara, includes a drawing of the Last Supper, local media reports said on Friday.

The 52-page Bible is written in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, and consists the depiction of the Last Supper, which shows Jesus dining with his 12 Apostles, and also a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus, a symbol of the sun and a cross, according to Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman.

The report added that there is also a depiction of a cave and a large rock which are thought to be the grave of Jesus.

Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay confirmed on Thursday that the 1,500-year-old Bible was discovered by policeman during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000 and is currently being kept in Ankara, according to Today's Zaman.

Cave of the Winds, Then and Now

This image of miner Donald G. Davis is from "Cave of the
Winds, Then and Now," a study in contrasts of the cavern's
130-year history as a tourist destination. (Norman Thompson)
Cave of the Winds is  a collection of weird formations inside a cavern set in a picturesque mountain canyon near Colorado Springs.

The cave, open since 1881, attracts some 150,000 visitors a year to view its cavernous rooms, as well as stalactites that make up a horseshoe tunnel and calcite deposits shaped like a skeleton and a bat. The attractions have such names as the Temple of Silence, the Valley of Dreams and the Adventure Room.


Photographers along with tourists were intrigued by the cave in the early years, and there are a multitude of
historic snapshots and stereopticon views of the attractions, many of them spooky, the light casting ominous shadows on the cave walls.

Norman Thompson replicates those old pictures of the cave and the countryside around it with a series of then-and-now shots. The Cave of the Winds hasn't changed much in 130 years, but the people have. Early visitors wore suits, ties and high collars with watch chains draped across their vests, a contrast to today's tourists in jeans and sweat shirts.

Source: Denver Post

Amarnath Yatra duration shrunken by three weeks

For 2012 pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath, pilgrims will have to produce a health fitness certificate and the tracks will be open only for 37 days. The decisions announced Sunday were taken on basis of past experiences of problems in clearing the tracks in time and the crisis that aged and frail faced uphill.

The pilgrimage will start on June 25 and will conclude on August 2, coinciding with the Rakhsha Bandnan. The shrine got a record 634 thousand pilgrims in 2011 which was a huge jump over 458 thousand pilgrims that it got in 2010.

Reduction in the duration of yatra was suggested by a sub committee led by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker. "Consequent to detailed deliberations, the Board accepted the recommendations of the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sub-committee and directed the CEO of the Board to timely commence the registration of pilgrims and ensure the effective management of the yatra which would commence on June 25 and conclude on Raksha Bandhan on August 2," a SASB spokesperson said.

Oldest instrument is dug up in Skye cave

The remains of what could be the oldest stringed instrument to be found in Europe have been discovered in a remote cave on Skye.

The burnt fragment was dug up last year during an archaeological project. It is believed to be at least 1,500 years old and pre-dates any similar item previously found on the continent.

The artefact, which resembles a bridge of an early stringed instrument, was unearthed in Skye’s High Pasture Cave – a focus of Bronze Age and Iron Age research since 1972 – and is currently being examined by experts at Historic Scotland.

Rod McCullagh, a Historic Scotland Archaeologist, said: “The cave has provided many fascinating discoveries, including a burnt fragment of a small wooden object that we have asked experts to study as it appears to be the bridge of a stringed instrument.”

Until now the oldest stringed instruments found in Europe have been lyre harps dated around 600AD, which were played by Vikings throughout Scandinavia.

However most of the artefacts discovered at the High Pasture Cave are much older, with many of the finds dating back to the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age, up to 2,000 years earlier.

Annual Hindu pilgrimage of Amarnath to start June 25

The annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine of Lord Shiva, in the south Kashmir Himalayas, will commence on June 25 this year.

It will last till Aug 2, according to a spokesman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the pilgrimage.

This decision was taken by the board at a meeting held in New Delhi Friday, the details of which were circulated to the media Saturday.

The logic behind having the pilgrimage for 39 days was the hostile weather conditions, which resulted in 107 deaths last year, when the pilgrimage commenced June 28 and lasted till Aug 13.

The cave shrine is situated at a height of 3,888 metres above sea level and has two routes leading to it, one from Pahalgam, about 100 km from Srinagar, and another from Baltal, 110 km from Srinagar.

The pilgrimage routes pass through high mountains and glaciers, involving a steep climb, and most of the track, despite clearance of snow, is slippery and full of slush, making it difficult for the pilgrims to negotiate the tortuous terrain.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Clapham cave rescuer receives his MBE

Rae Lonsdale with his MBE
A retired national park stalwart and long-time rescue team member has received his MBE from the Queen.

Rae Lonsdale of Settle in North Yorkshire said he has had to put up with good-humoured ribbing but also received compliments from friends and colleagues after his appointment.

The 64-year-old is a member of the Cave Rescue Organisation, which goes to the aid of both potholers and fellwalkers in the Yorkshire Dales, and retired last year from the national park authority.

He received his medal for voluntary service in North Yorkshire in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

He said: “The past few weeks have been a bit unreal.

“There has been the good-natured leg-pulling and curtseying from some of my more comical acquaintances, but also the congratulations from many people, to say nothing of the anticipation and reality of the visit to Buckingham Palace.

“When Her Majesty said ‘You seem to have done a lot’, I just said that I hadn’t done anything I hadn’t enjoyed.

European Neanderthals Were On the Verge of Extinction Even Before the Arrival of Modern Humans

Teeth from a Neanderthal boy,
Northern Spain.
New findings from an international team of researchers show that most Neanderthals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable Neanderthal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived must therefore be revised.

This new perspective on the Neanderthals comes from a study of ancient DNA published February 25 in Molecular Biology and Evolution.

The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture.

The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid.

“The fact that Neanderthals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought”, says Love Dalén, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bat colony faces cave new world

Bones excavated from the Great Cave of Niah in Borneo
show that the bat population has dwindled
Zooarchaeology, which uses animal bones to study the history of biological diversity, reveals that bat populations have dwindled

The “changing of the guard” at the Great Cave of Niah in Malaysian Borneo is a wildlife wonder. Every evening at dusk two great black clouds intermingle, as up to half a million bats fly out for their nightly forage in the forest, while a similar number of swiftlets return to roost. At dawn the traffic is reversed.

The diurnal mass exchange of bats and birds has taken place for at least 50,000 years – and previously on an even larger scale than today – according to evidence collected by practitioners of zooarchaeology, an emerging scientific field that uses ancient animal bones to study the history of biological diversity.

The results show that, in the broadest terms, the local ecology is the same as it was 50,000 years ago. The cave has been surrounded by closed-canopy rainforest throughout the period, Stimpson says, “in contrast to studies that have suggested the periodic replacement of lowland tropical forest by savannah-like habitats.” But more detailed examination of the bones shows significant changes, some of them brought about by humans, who started visiting the Great Cave more than 45,000 years ago.Chris Stimpson, a zooarchaeologist at Cambridge University, has studied 12,000 bat bones and 1,400 bird bones excavated from the Great Cave.

Stone Age pebble may be oldest engraving ever

Scientists concluded that humans intentionally made the
sub-parallel linear incisions on this Middle Stone Age
ochre pebble.
Found in South Africa, the meaning of this colorful 100,000-year-old relic is a mystery

A colorful pebble bearing a sequence of linear incisions may be the world's oldest engraving.

The object, which will be described in the April issue of the Journal of Archaeology, dates back about 100,000 years ago and could also be the world’s oldest known abstract art. It was recovered from Klasies River Cave in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

“Associated human remains indicate that the engraved piece was certainly made by Homo sapiens,” co-author Riaan Rifkin of the University of Witwatersrand’s Institute for Human Evolution told Discovery News.

Rifkin and colleagues Francesco d’Errico and Renata Garcia Moreno performed extensive non-invasive analyses of the object. Methods like X-ray fluorescence and microscopic analysis enabled the researchers to examine every minute detail of the ochre pebble, which appears to have split off from a once larger piece.

The scientists conclude that humans intentionally made the sub-parallel linear incisions on the Middle Stone Age pebble.

Cavers going underground to help NY flood victims

Cave explorers from three Northeast states are getting the opportunity to map and photograph rarely seen underground passages in upstate New York.

Organizers of Saturday's event at Howe Caverns in Schoharie (skoh-HAYR'-ee) County tell the Daily Gazette of Schenectady (http://bit.ly/zSiB8w ) that 20 expert cavers from New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey have paid $100 each to explore parts of the massive cave system that aren't open to the public for tours.

The proceeds will be donated to local food relief efforts. Parts of the rural county located 30 miles southwest of Albany were devastated by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene last August.

The cavers plan to explore what's known as the Mystery Passage, a section of the cave system known to have been explored only a half-dozen times.

From Caves to Stonehenge, Ancient Peoples Painted with Sound

Stone Age cave paintings evoke reverent silence in most people. But David Lubman, Miriam Kolar, and Steve Waller prefer to shout and clap instead.

They are among a growing number of researchers probing the acoustic properties of ancient sites. Their research, presented this week in Vancouver, British Columbia at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, shows that ancient peoples created sophisticated sonic illusions in ceremonial spaces ranging from Mayan temples to Stonehenge.

Humanity's fascination with sound runs deep. In Utah's Horseshoe Canyon, ancient people drew artwork where echoes are loudest. Around the world, Stone Age artists typically painted in caverns with the greatest reverberation.

Lubman, a consultant in acoustics, speculates that the association between art and echoes was originally unintended. Instead, ancient artists painted on solid rock because porous rock absorbed their pigments. Solid rock created better echoes.

"Such resonant spaces inspire singing," Lubman said.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New manual for MkVI Discovery


Download here the latest version of the MKVI User Guide version 2.2

And the Poseidon MKVI Configuration Tool V 1.12

More information:
http://www.poseidon.com/support/mkvi

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Spring Break 2012

Many people visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park during spring break. So, in anticipation of the increased interest, the park will offer two additional Kings Palace Ranger Guided tours from Saturday March 10 -Saturday March 17 -- tour times will be 10:00, 11:00, 1:00 and 2:00.

Normally during the off-season, between and Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends, these tours are only offered twice daily, at 10:00 and 1:00.

The Kings Palace Ranger Guided tour winds through four rooms, historically called the Scenic Rooms, of Carlsbad Cavern as the Park Ranger describes the history and geology of the features. The tour takes about one and half hours and includes a blackout, so that visitors can experience the cave as it is naturally. In addition to the general entry ticket, Kings Palace

Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for Senior Pass cardholders and children ages 4-15; children under age 4 no allowed.

Source: Carlsbad Current-Argus

Summer 2012 Karst Field Studies Program

The Hoffman Environmental Research Institute through its Center for Cave and Karst Studies and in cooperation with the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning and Western Kentucky University, are pleased to announce the launch of the Summer 2012 Karst Field Studies Program. Courses this summer will include:

  • Exploration of Mammoth Cave, June 4-10 
  • Techniques in Karst Groundwater Investigations, June 6-8 
  • Karst Hydrogeology of the Ozarks, June 10-16 
  • Cave Archaeology, June 11-16 
  • Cave Survey and Cartography, June 17-23 
  • Application of Geophysical Methods to Karst Terrains, June 16-22 
Courses may be taken for graduate, undergraduate, or continuing education credit. Courses may also be taken as non-credit workshops.

For more information about the program, courses, how to register, and instructors, please visit www.karstfieldstudies.com. While visiting the website be sure to also check out the "Scholarships" tab for information about Nick Crawford Karst Education Scholarship, a competitive award designed to offer financial assistance for attending a course.

If you have any questions please contact the 2012 Karst Field Studies Director, Dr. Leslie North, at leslie.north@wku.edu.

2012 NSS Salons: DEADLINES !

NSS Art & Music Salons promote and recognize excellent cave-related art, artists, and musicians. NSS Salons are open to everyone; those who enter need not be members of the NSS. Kindly refer to Salon web pages for entry fees and details.

COVER ART. Printed cave publication covers
http://www.caves.org/committee/salons/Cover%20Art.shtml
DEADLINE: March 25, 2012.

All entries must be mailed to Brian Killingbeck (316 Tremont St., Apt 2, Chattanooga,TN 37405), with Entry Form, and received no later than March 25, 2012.
ENTRY FORM: http://www.caves.org/committee/salons/coverentry.pdf
ENTRY FEE: $6.00 per organization, regardless of the number of covers submitted.
MORE INFORMATION: Brian at coverartsalon@caves.org.

PHOTOS. Photographic slides & digital images
http://www.caves.org/committee/salons/Slide.shtml
DEADLINE: March 30, 2012.
Entries mailed to Cady Soukup (P.O. Box 600 Flint Hill VA 22627-0600; cady@mindwrap.com) to arrive no later than March 30, 2012. If you have trouble with the deadline, please contact Cady before March 30. No more than 30 entries per photographer.
ENTRY FORM: http://www.caves.org/committee/salons/photoentry.pdf
MORE INFORMATION: Contact Ray Cole / Cady Soukup at photosalon@caves.org.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nerja caves discovery will bring more visitors, it is hoped

It is already the third most visited sight in Spain.

But the ‘academic bombshell’ that paintings at Nerja caves could be the oldest in existence is expected to take the tourist attraction to entirely new levels.

The discovery came when charcoal pigments next to the six seal images were sent to Miami and found to be 43,000 years old.

If the artwork is the same age – analysis which will be produced in 2013 – it means it was created by Neanderthals, and not Homo sapiens as was previously thought.

Nerja mayor Jose Alberto Armijo has since called for financial support, adding that the find will bring more people to Nerja and hopefully enable the town, whose visitor numbers have dwindled of late, to attract 500,000 annual visitors.

Cave complicates LG&E's plans for waste landfill near Trimble County plant

A cave sits on land in Trimble County where LG&E wants
to build a waste landfill. KY. Division of Waste Management
Is it a cave, or merely a “cave-like feature” on a Trimble County landscape?

The distinction could mean higher costs at one of Louisville Gas and Electric Co.’s largest coal-generating plants, the Trimble Generating Station , where plans for a new coal-burning waste landfill may wind up in a legal dispute.

With the plant’s ash storage ponds filling up along the Ohio River, and ash-pond safety now a national concern, LG&E has been planning on stockpiling its ash and scrubber waste in a new, presumably more environmentally friendly landfill to be built on 218 acres of company-owned property nearby. Those plans are now in question.

The plant produces about 1 million tons per year of the combustion wastes, and an LG&E official warned this week that if the utility can’t build its Trimble landfill, it may have to haul the waste to its Mill Creek power plant landfill in Louisville.

Cave consisting of old stones carved in various arts, shapes discovered in Khalanga

A new and very strange cave has been discovered at the Nuwakot VDC, south of the district headquarters, Khalanga of Rukum district.

The cave at Dayalekh in Nuwakot-2 throws light to the jungle of Dayalekh, RSS reports.

The eight-meter deep and four-meter wide cave also consists of old stones carved out in the shape of Lord Shiva, Ganesh and a cow, and arts and shapes of various kinds.

The cave was reportedly discovered by herdsmen as they were taking goats for grazing inside the jungle.

Meanwhile, marking the Shivaratri festival, the Dayalekh Cave Protection Committee organized a fair at the cave premises.

The cave will now be preserved in order to support tourism promotion in the area, says local Bir Bahadur Khadka.

Source: Nepalnews

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Italy outrage over plot to commercialise Blue Grotto

Capri's Blue Grotto is renowned for its iridescent
shades of cobalt and turquoise
A plan to commercialise Capri's famous Blue Grotto sea cave by installing floating booms on which businesses could advertise has sparked indignation in Italy.

The mayor of the tiny island, a byword for glitz and glamour, says the plan would bring in much needed revenue at a time when its budget has been slashed by government cuts.

The Blue Grotto – or 'Grotta Azzurra' – is a cavern at the base of tall limestone cliffs which is renowned for its iridescent shades of cobalt and turquoise and attracts more than a quarter of a million visitors a year.

Ciro Lembo, the mayor, wants to instal floating pontoons emblazoned with commerical logos anchored 50 yards from the cave entrance.

Mr Lembo said the bill for maintaining the island's public spaces would come to five million euros this year but the council only had four million euros in its coffers.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Research reveals water management and climate change in ancient Maya city

Meticulous mapping and excavations at an ancient cave in the Yucatan Peninsula are revealing the vitality of the site to the ancient Maya – for both religious ritual and human survival. The University of Cincinnati research will be a key topic of discussion on Feb. 24, at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in New York.

The city is located in the elevated Puuc Region of the Yucatan in Mexico. The city – featuring a great pyramid and other elaborate architecture – was built above one of the few cave systems in the region that penetrates the permanent water table. Mapping and excavations of the ancient city revealed a network of cisterns and reservoirs that fed the community’s water supply. The cave exploration has discovered hills of broken pottery and charred sacrifices, also indicating the cave was a key religious site that involved worship of the rain gods.

Researcher Nicholas Dunning, a UC professor of geography, says the cave, located in the ancient ruins of the city of Xcoch, was used continuously from at least 800 BC until the 19th century, when it was still used for rituals. UC geography doctoral student Eric Weaver has led a team mapping Xcoch Cave, assisted by other experienced cavers including UC biology graduate students Beth Cortright and Jane Slater.

“This is in a region that has no surface water,” says Dunning. “There are only a handful of caves that go deep enough to get to the permanent water table, so for anyplace that’s bone dry for five months out of the year, this is a pretty special location.”

White-Nose Syndrome Webinar Series

On January 27, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held the first of a series of WNS webinars. This one was targeted specifically to state and federal agency biologists and land managers as a training seminar. We asked for both the NSS and cave conservancies to be able to participate, but were declined. Instead, they pledged to put as much up on line as possible, and also to include a broader audience in the next two: for educators and communicators late winter or early spring; and for the general public later spring, once this season's bat survey figures are in.

In the meantime, USFWS removed agency-specific information as well as proprietary scientific information (unpublished and not yet peer reviewed), but posted the rest of the presentations. Here is the link:

http://nctc.fws.gov/CSP/Resources/white_nose_syndrome_webinar_series/home.html

Click on the link and follow the link to the Archive of past White-Nose Syndrome webinars. USFWS says that "all of the content on the Archive can be shared with the public, so please feel free to forward this link to anyone that is interested."

While I've personally only viewed two of them to date, I did note that the last one, which deals with decon protocols, does include the new "hot water" standard, replacing the former "boiling water" standard. Specifically, immersing gear in water >50 degrees Celsius (122F) for at least 15 minutes will kill the fungus.

We are still waiting for the new formal national WNS decon protocol to be posted, but clearly USFWS is already publicizing and training on this standard. I think this is an important development, as it is both a non-chemical alternative, safer for the environment and for humans to handle, and easier to accomplish than boiling water.

Source: Peter Youngbaer @ Cavechat

Cave similar to Bhimbetka found in MP

Madhya Pradesh Archaeological Department has found a rare one-km-long cave in Raisen district similar to the famous world heritage site Bhimbetka, which is home to the rare rock paintings.

The one-km-long cave has been identified as "Mrigendranath Cave" near Patni village in Raisen district and Neely 80 km away from Bhimbetka, an official release said here today.

The Minister for Culture and Public Relations along with Secretary Culture Manoj Shrivastava and Commissioner Archaeology, JL Malpani visited the spot by walking for nearly three km from Patni village to reach Mrigendranath cave.

The cave's entry is so narrow that only one person at a time can enter it by virtually crawling, but once inside it is a huge and long cave having images of various gods, it said.

On entering inside one encounters the image of Lord Bajrangbali (Hanuman) and feet of Lord Shiva carved neatly carved on a stone, the release said.

There are different kinds of natural stone resembling Gajanan, crocodile, frog, Govardhan and Siddha Baba it said.

The experts also found Gupta Godavari cave, Vindhyachal cave figures of Gajanan and fish, seven Yagna Kunds and Dhunis inside it, the release said.

The government is planning to develop the spot as a major tourist attraction by launching preservation and beautification drive.

Source: Zeenews

Holy Ice-lingam melts in Amarnath cave shrine

The holy Ice Lingam of Lord Shiva, built automatically inside the cave shrine of Amarnath, has melted completely due to heavy influx of pilgrims this year. However, notwithstanding the condition of Ice Lingam, a batch of 1,455 pilgrims left here Tuesday for onward journey to the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas.

Comprising 863 men, 169 women, 35 children and 388 sadhus, the 32nd batch left from the base camp at Bhagwati Nagar here in a fleet of 41 vehicles at 1130 hours, officials said.

The pilgrims are expected to reach their respective destinations of Baltal and Nunwan in Pahalgam base camps by this evening, they said.

With today's batch, as many as 76,435 pilgrims have left from here to perform darshan of the naturally formed Ice-lingam at the 3,888 metre high cave shine.

Source: Zeenews

Tassili-n-Ajjer rock art is at least 9000 years old

Tassili-n-Ajjer is a mountain range in the Algerian section of the Sahara Desert. The range is noted for its prehistoric rock art and other ancient archaeological sites, dating from Neolithic times when the local climate was much moister, with savannah rather than desert. 

The art depicts herds of cattle, large wild animals including crocodiles, and human activities such as hunting and dancing. The art has strong stylistic links to the pre-Nguni Art of South Africa and the region, executed in caves by the San Peoples before the year 1200 BCE. 

The range's exceptional density of rock art paintings-pictograms and engravings-petroglyphs, and the presence of many prehistoric vestiges, are remarkable testimonies to Neolithic prehistory. As from 1933, the date of its discovery 15,000 petroglyphs have been identified to date. 

Using OSL techniques archeologists discovered that the famous rock art site of the Central Sahara can be dated to 9-10 millennia ago or older.

DHEC: 2nd bat found at school is not rabid

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control said Friday that a second bat that was found at Fountain Inn Elementary School on Thursday was not rabid.

On Wednesday, a bat got into the classroom area where students and a teacher were present and was captured by school staff, according to Myrick. He said the bat tested negative for rabies.Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Adam Myrick said the school has had a problem with bats for about three weeks and they have been working with a bat-removal company.

On Thursday, Greenville County Schools spokesman Oby Lyles said school was dismissing early when another bat was found in the music room. He said the animal was turned over to DHEC for testing.

Lyles said as a precautionary measure, school was dismissed early. He said any students at the school after 1 p.m. would be transported to Hillcrest High School, where they would be supervised by staff until they were picked up.

Lyles said that the school would be closed on Friday, while school leaders meet with DHEC officials, the animal removal company and a bat expert from Clemson University.

Lyles said school officials will decide Sunday if classes will resume on Tuesday. Greenville County students have Monday off for Presidents' Day.

Bats are gone, Fountain Inn Elementary to reopen Tuesday

Fountain Inn Elementary School will reopen Tuesday after bat removal specialists checked all areas of the school and determined that hundreds of bats that had plagued the school for weeks and forced it release students early last Thursday and close Friday have since left the building.

School district maintenance personnel and an animal removal company checked all areas of the school multiple times and peered into interior walls and above ceiling tiles and have not seen any bats since Friday, according to a school announcement sent out by Principal Glen Wile.

Crews found a major colony of about 400 bats that was located inside the exterior walls of the gymnasium. A second group of 11 bats was found inside an exterior wall on the other side of the building, he said.

Wile said that “all areas of the school have been checked multiple times for bats. No bats have been found in the school — in classrooms, above ceiling tiles, or inside walls.”

The school installed valves in exterior walls that allowed the roosting bats to fly out but not return, he said. Crews sealed other access points into the building and installed screens over exhaust fans in the school gymnasium where the bats were first seen more than three weeks ago, he said.

The school was thoroughly disinfected and bat droppings were cleaned from the roof, he said. No droppings were found inside the school itself, but only on the roof and inside walls, he said.

“This evidence supports our belief that only a few bats were in occupied areas and only for a short time,” Wile said.

Crews removed droppings from the roof and disinfected all areas.Droppings were left inside the walls and Wile said they were assured those droppings were contained and of no danger.

Parents were to be notified through electronic telephone calls and a posting on the school's website, said Oby Lyles, school district spokesman.

Source: Greenville Online

Rs 20,000 crore treasure hidden in Hyderabad cave?

The hunt for a reported treasure trove in the heart of Hyderabad city by the state archaeological department was suspended on Monday afternoon after a two-day digging operation did not yield any results. The search may resume on Tuesday. Mohammed Siddique reports.

Chenna Reddy, director, AP archaeological department, said that the excavation with an earth-mover machine was suspended as they could not find any signs of a cave or tunnel where some people claimed to have seen a treasure trove more than a year ago.

"We have requested the National Mineral Development Corporation to provide us sophisticated geological sensor equipment to pinpoint the location of an underground tunnel," he said.

A team of officials of NMDC visited the site of the excavation in a private school premises in Saifabad area of Hyderabad which is bang opposite the state secretariat.

The NMDC was likely to send a team of experts with equipment to help in the search operation on Tuesday.

The archaeological department personnel started the digging operation at the bottom of the famous Naubat Pahad from inside the school premises on the basis of information provided by a group of nine people including D S Rama Raju, a Coal India Ltd official.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Health Richmond Memorial Hospital Closed Due To Colony of Bats

A Rockingham hospital has temporarily closed its doors until a colony of bats can be removed.

Officials with FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital said Saturday that no new patients would be accepted and existing patients had been moved out for the time being.

The hospital has been working with a professional bat removal service to expel the bats, which have been living in the walls. Hospital employees called county officials about the problem on Friday, and teams inspected air handling units, patient rooms, common areas and ceiling tiles, among other areas.

Richmond County health inspectors say there is no evidence of bat droppings inside the hospital, and there should be no lingering risks to patients or employees.

Source: DigTriad

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Construction Workers Discover Magnificent Cave in Crete

Workers placing new biological treatment pipes in the village Fodele of the Municipality of Malevizio, Crete, came across a magnificent cave of stalagmites and stalactites on February 14.

The workers immediately contacted the president of the local community, Mr. G. Fakounakis, as well as the Mayor, Mr. Constantine Mamoulakis, who visited the village along with the Vice Mayor Drakos Maris, officials of the local Municipal Enterprise for Water Supply and Sewerage, other Municipal services and the Municipality’s archaeologist, Mr. G. Tzorakis. The responsible Ephorate of Antiquities was also informed of the discovery although no ancient items have been revealed so far.

Archaeologists of the Ephorate scanned the field on February 16 to decide whether the cave covers all security measures in order to be included in the sites of the traditional village.

At the same time, for the protection of the passersby, a guard was placed outside the cave to prevent curious people or small children from entering the cave.

According to local Patris daily, the cave has already fuelled the locals’ imagination with lost treasures hidden inside of it. A group of teenagers has attacked the guard and the president of the community, while they attempted to enter the cave in spite of the security instructions and warnings.

Source: Greek reporter

Bats invade NC hospital

Bats have taken up residence at a hospital southwest of the Triangle.

First Health Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham has worked around the clock with a bat removal company to get the animals out of the building.

In the meantime, the hospital has had to move all of its patients out. The only people allowed to stay are those currently being treated in the Emergency Room.

Health inspectors have determined that there is no evidence of bat droppings in the hospital. Officials said once all the bats are removed, the hospital should not pose any lingering risk to patients or employees.

Source: ABC Local

Cave enthusiasts try to reclaim cavern buried in trash

Volunteers dig out tires and trash at the entrance of the
Goodwin Pit Cave. Photo by Samantha Edmondson.
Despite harsh temperatures in the low 20s last weekend, cave enthusiasts from all over the state began cleaning up a pit that has been used as an illegal dumping site for generations.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources dye-traced the water from Goodwin Sinkhole, and verified that water that drains into Goodwin Sinkhole flows underground and emerges 10 miles away at Ha Ha Tonka Spring.

Just outside Montreal is Goodwin Sinkhole and Goodwin Pit Cave, which are two important karst resources in Laclede County that affect water quality at Ha Ha Tonka Spring and the Lake of the Ozarks.

According to Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy (MCKC), Goodwin Sinkhole has been the site of illegal dumping, primarily of household goods and tires, since the late 1950s. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has dye-traced the water from Goodwin Sinkhole, and verified that water that drains into Goodwin Sinkhole flows underground and emerges 10 miles away at Ha Ha Tonka Spring, one of the 15 largest springs in Missouri that discharges almost 50 million gallons per day into the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.

For many decades, trash and debris have prevented normal water flow at the sinkhole and has caused pollution at Ha Ha Tonka Spring and the Lake of the Ozarks, according to MCKC.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bacteria On Cave Painting Offer Hope For New Super-Antibiotics

In 2003 scientists discovered pathogens on a Stone Age cave painting in Italy. After further research they found out that these pathogens could lead to a new type of super-antibiotics (see reference below).

According to reports, the ancient bacteria can produce the antibiotics "Cervimycin". This antibiotic will kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other resistant bacteria. 

Current research shows that when they suppressed the "CerJ" enzyme the bacteria produces even stronger antibiotics called "Cervimycin K".

Acccording to research team leader Christian Hurt Wake further study is necessary as this Cercimycin K still cannot be produced synthetically. The team is now looking at biotechnological alternatives. It may take up to 20 years before the new substance is fully tested and becomes available on the market.

Related research:
Cervimycin A–D: A Polyketide Glycoside Complex from a Cave Bacterium Can Defeat Vancomycin Resistance; Kerstin Herold Dr., Friedrich A. Gollmick Dr., Ingrid Groth Dr., Martin Roth Dr., Klaus-Dieter Menzel, Ute Möllmann Dr., Udo Gräfe Prof. Dr., Christian Hertweck Dr.; Chemistry - A European Journal Volume 11, Issue 19, pages 5523–5530, September 19, 2005; DOI: 10.1002/chem.200500320

Bats found near Fort Bend ISD school

Bats have been found near an elementary school in Fort Bend County.

The principal of Fleming Elementary, 14850 Bissonnet, sent parents a letter Thursday informing them of the situation.

Last week, custodians spotted the bats near school grounds. The bat colony is under a bridge near the school campus.

No students or staff have come into contact with the bats.

As a precaution, the school district's facilities department is in the process of inspecting and resealing all exterior openings around the building.

The Fort Bend County Animal Control should be notified at 281-342-1512 if bats are seen during the daytime inside homes or businesses.

Source: Click2Houston

Niah Cave artifacts on way home?

It would take two to three years for artifacts taken from Niah Cave in the 1950s by archaeologists from Nevada University, USA to be returned to the state.

According to Sarawak Museum Department director Ipoi Datan, the process of acquiring all 122 skeletons taken from Niah Cave in Miri was done with cooperation from the National Heritage Department.

“There are several procedures that we need to follow and it will take another two to three years before we will reach something,” Ipoi said when met by reporters after the launching of a photography exhibition at the Sarawak Art Museum yesterday.

It was Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud who brought up the subject when he officiated at the opening of an international seminar on Borneon Archaeology back in 2010. He said the artifacts were an important part of the state’s heritage.

The archaeologists who had taken the artifacts had made some initial reports on their study but none were ever published.

On another matter, Ipoi said the Sarawak Museum Department would come up with an exciting programme this year starting with a burial exhibition of various ethnic groups at Dewan Tun Abdul Razak and the Sarawak Beads Exhibition to be held in Banjarmasin in Kalimantan.

“We will also hold for the second time the Dino Trek exhibition in collaboration with Petroscience at Petroleum Museum in Miri.”

The Museum Department, he added, was assisting in the conservation work of a few traditional longhouses in the state.

Source: The Borneo Post

Tourism and Karst Areas magazine 2011 Vol. 4 (n°2)

A new edition of the Brazilian Tourism and Karst Areas magazine, (formerly known as Pesquisas em Turismo e Paisagens Cátsticas) is available.

TOURISM AND KARST AREAS – Volume 4 – N° 2 (2011) -
Download Complete Magazine (PDF - 5.16 MB)

Individual articles:

Vacancy for caver

As this vacancy is for a job in France the complete profile is left in French. 

Spéléologue de terrain confirmé(e) (H/F)
ENTREPRISE
Créée en 1999, l'association SYLVATROP œuvre pour la protection, la conservation, la gestion durable et participative de la biodiversité en milieu tropical. Elle intervient principalement en Afrique de l’Ouest.
Les capacités techniques et scientifiques de SYLVATROP lui permettent de contribuer à la mise en œuvre de solutions alternatives et durables, pour la préservation de la biodiversité et la gestion participative des ressources naturelles renouvelables des milieux tropicaux.
Depuis des missions d’inventaires et d’études d’impacts jusqu’à la mise en œuvre de programmes d’actions, SYLAVTROP travaille en partenariat avec les institutions et des entreprises privées, pour une plus grande efficacité environnementale.
SYLVATROP intervient à l’échelon international, à partir de Nantes, et plus particulièrement en Afrique de l’Ouest et en Afrique Centrale : Guinée, Libéria, Sierra Léone et République du Congo.
> Consultez la fiche entreprise de Association SYLVATROP 
POSTE
L’Association SYLVATROP a pour mission de contribuer activement à la conservation, à l’utilisation durable et participative de la biodiversité animale et végétale des milieux tropicaux.
Dans le cadre d'une étude d'impact environnemental, Sylvatrop recrute un(e) Spéléologue de terrain confirmé(e) pour mission en Afrique de l'Ouest (espaces naturels protégés).
CDD 1 mois minimum.
Conditions de vie rustiques.
Rémunération à négocier selon expérience. Frais de déplacement pris en charge (AR France-Guinée + trajets sur place).

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Into the big deep

A caver in the Stormy Pot system.
Cavers hoping to link two caving systems in Mt Arthur are excited to find they are now only 20 metres away from finding a way to join the systems and potentially unlocking the deepest explored cave in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fifteen cavers, including some of New Zealand's top cavers, surfaced recently after spending eight days exploring the Stormy Pot system. Cavers hope to link it to the nearby Nettlebed Cave system, which comes out at the Pearse Resurgence, in the Pearse Valley, Motueka.

Caver Kieran McKay said the co-ordinates of the areas the cavers had mapped on the eight-day expedition were entered into the computer once they were above ground. They were extremely excited to discover they had come within 20m of linking the two systems. Underground they had not realised how tantalisingly close they were. "It's big progress, but we don't quite have that connection yet."

Mr McKay said if the two systems linked the cave would be of national and international significance. Joining the systems could take the mapped cave to a depth of 1200m, making it the deepest cave in New Zealand, and one of the deepest three trips in the world.

Jewel Cave opens to tours after three-week closure

Jewel Cave National Monument has re-opened the cave for interpretive tours after a three-week closure for elevator maintenance.

Tours resumed Tuesday, according to a news release from the monument.

Jewel Cave is the second longest cave in the world and offers two tours during the winter season. The scenic tour is offered twice daily. The discovery tour, 20 minutes long, is offered three times a day. Jewel Cave is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. For more information or to make reservations, go to www.nps.gov/jeca.

NCKRI job opening announcement: searching for a fund raiser

Dear Friends,

The National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) is hiring a new Advancement Director. Ann Dowdy has done a wonderful job establishing the foundation of NCKRI's Advancement Program, but needs to leave for personal reasons. She is able to generously give us substantial advance notice to minimize the time that the position will be vacant. Her successor will continue fund raising for NCKRI and marketing its programs.

I'm sending you this message because of your interest in caves, karst, and NCKRI. While many of you won't be interested in the job for yourselves, please forward this note to anyone you think may be interested. You are also welcome to post it on websites and in newsletters. The announcement has also been sent to newspapers and various websites. We are accepting applications until 26 April 2012.

The job announcement is posted at http://www.nmt.edu/images/stories/hr/pdfs/advdirnckri12222-020.pdf. NCKRI is administered by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The employment application form is at http://www.nmt.edu/images/stories/hr/pdfs/employment_nmt.pdf, but it must be mailed, not e-mailed, along with resumes and any other supporting material. The job will be stationed at NCKRI headquarters in Carlsbad, New Mexico. If you have questions, please contact Karla Montoya at kmontoya@admin.nmt.edu or (575) 835-6962. Caving experience or advanced knowledge of caves and karst, while certainly welcome and helpful, are not required for this job. The Advancement Director will play a vital role in generating funds and support to continue building NCKRI's staff and programs, which includes assisting NCKRI's friends and partners whenever possible.

Thank you,
George Veni, Ph.D.
Executive Director National Cave and Karst Research Institute
400-1 Cascades Avenue
Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220-6215 USA
Office: 575-887-5517
Fax: 575-887-5523
gveni@nckri.org
www.nckri.org

Video: Discovery of Prehistoric Cave

A nice French video documentary in which Mr. Tridat of Margueron tells us how he accidentally discovered the prehistoric cave which was under his barn and shows us around the premises, all accompanied by pictures taken at the time of discovery.


Archeology Documentary Relies on Litepanels

Stephen Bean relied on Litepanels to shoot deep underground.
“Dark, dangerous and wet” is how cinematographerStephen Beandescribes the working conditions during his most recent film project, a documentary titled The Undo Cave expedition 2011. Bean works at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland and is responsible for the ENG/EFP section of the film unit there. Together with an international team of archeology students and scientists from UCC, Bean traveled to the Republic of Georgia to document the work of archaeologists in their search for Paleolithic DNA. They were accompanied by three MicroPro LED camera lights from Litepanels.

Bean has made research documentaries his specialty and has already shot numerous archeology films under extreme conditions. However, the documentary in the Undo Cave in the southern Caucasus still proved to be a great challenge for the cinematographer. “To make filming in the complete darkness of the cave passages possible at all, we had to rely on dependable lighting equipment,” said Bean. “That’s why the MicroPro camera light by Litepanels was the perfect companion for our project.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Indianapolis airport awards ISU contract to study bats

The Indianapolis International Airport has awarded a nearly $505,000 contract to Indiana State University to track the bats that live or roost on hundreds of acres of airport land.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that the airport’s 2-year contract awarded this month boosts to $2.5 million the amount the airport has paid ISU since 2004 to track the flying mammals as is required under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The airport must monitor and report its findings each year until 2017 on the endangered Indiana bat and eight other bat species.

ISU biology professor John Whitaker says the school’s work at the airport on Indianapolis’ southwest side has generated a treasure trove of information on bats and how to best accommodate them, particularly the Indiana bat.

Source: Tribstar

Surveying software Auriga 2.03 released

Auriga is a cave survey freeware for PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) running under Palm OS. Auriga is designed for in-cave use as a smart survey notebook: as the survey goes, Auriga displays the line plot in graphical form, reports statistics, helps spot and fix survey errors and assists in sketching to scale. Bidirectional data exchange with Compass and Visual Topo is automated.

As of 24 February version 2.03 is available for download here.

Continue reading to see what's new.

Yucatan Cave Dive Expedition

More cave diving exploration on the Yucatan peninsula. this time a nice video from Anders Knudsen, Natalie Gibb and Vincent Rouquette Cathala.


'Naked Archaeologist' finds signs Jerusalem cave was used to bury Jesus' disciples

Enhanced image of 'Jonah and the Whale' found in a
Jerusalem burial cave.
Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy-winning documentary director and producer, hopes findings of current explorations will substantiate his earlier theory that Jesus was buried in a nearby cave.

Under an ordinary residential building in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, a robotic arm with a camera inserted into a Second Temple-era burial cave has revealed mysterious inscriptions and drawings on ossuaries.

Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy-winning documentary director and producer who is best known for his documentary TV series "The Naked Archaeologist," argues that the cave served as a burial cave for at least some of Jesus' disciples.

Jacobovici is exploring the cave for his latest documentary project, backed by the Discovery Channel, and hopes his findings substantiate his earlier theory that a nearby cave is the one where Jesus was buried. He made that claim in a previous documentary, and said the theory was backed up by the names found on the ossuaries, or receptacles for bones, in the cave.

The discoveries could potentially have revolutionary implications for the understanding of early Christianity and of Jesus as a historical figure.

Expedition News: Czech cave divers enlarge Ko'ox Baal system to 62 km

Beginning this year Karst Worlds reported how Czech cave divers made a connection between Ko'ox Baal and Tux Kupaxa, located on the Yucatan peninsula, resulting in worlds fourth longest underwater cave at 56,5 km.

The exploration continued and they now succeeded to connect the system to another cave, called Chun Che Chen, enlarging the total lenght of the cave system to over 62 km.

Read the day by day report of the expedition at Speleo Aquanaut (CZ)

Oldest New World Cave Art Discovered

A figure engraved in the bedrock of a Brazilian cave dates back at least 10,000 years. 

Cave painting connects us with our prehistoric artist ancestors. But there’s a dearth of such illustration in the Americas. Now a cave in Brazil has been found to house the oldest New World image known.

The shelter was excavated from 2002 to 2009. In the last days there, scientists exposed a foot-high figure in the bedrock. It has a c-shaped head, two outstretched arms, two legs, and a very visible penis.

Using radiocarbon dating, the researchers dated an ash layer to between 9300 and 10,500 years ago. A hearth found about an inch above the drawing gives similar results. And the researchers used a technique called optically stimulated luminescence on sediment, which also dated to around 10-12,000 years ago.

The scientists say this makes the petroglyph the oldest reliably dated cave art in the Americas. The research was published in journal Public Library of Science One.
[WA Neves et al, Rock Art at the Pleistocene/Holocene Boundary in Eastern South America]

Echoes of this style exist in other early art in the region, amidst diverse styles throughout North and South America. The researchers the range of images reveals a spectrum of symbolic thought dating back to early in the history of human colonization of the hemisphere.

Also available as podcast: Download MP3

Source: Scientific American

Fungus killing off Canada's bats

Environment minister urged to place three species on endangered list

Canadian bats are experiencing such catastrophic die-offs - with more than 90 per cent of the creatures dying in caves in Eastern Canada - that Environment Minister Peter Kent has been advised to issue an emergency order and declare three bat species endangered.

A rapidly spreading fungus that causes white nose syndrome poses a "serious and imminent threat to the survival" of the bats, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) announced Monday.

The fungus is so deadly - and cut-ting such a huge swath through bat caves - that the national committee of wildlife experts called an emergency meeting to assess the situation. The committee has recommended to the federal environment minister is-sue an "emergency order" placing three species - the tri-coloured bat, the little brown myotis and northern myotis - on Canada's list of endangered species.

"Although information on bats and the fungal disease is somewhat limited, the evidence of population collapse and rapid spread of the disease is clear," the committee said.

Neanderthals were nearly extinct in Europe when modern humans arrived

An international team of researchers, studying ancient DNA, have suggested that most Neanderthals in Europe already were largely extinct 50,000 years ago - long before modern humans first arrived in the continent.

The findings contradict the long-held notion that Neanderthal populations were stable in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years until modern Homo sapiens arrived.

The scientists say the Neanderthal human species already had died off as early as 50,000 years ago, but a small group recovered and survived for another 10,000 years in areas of central and western Europe before modern humans entered the picture.

The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid.

"The fact that Neanderthals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought," said Love Dalen, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

Wind Cave National Park Equals Visitors and Money and Jobs

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows the 104,000 visitors who toured Wind Cave in 2010 spent $17.6 million in the park and surrounding communities. This spending supported more than 300 area jobs.

"The people and the business owners in communities near national parks have always known their economic value," said park superintendent Vidal Davila. "Wind Cave National Park is clean, green fuel for the engine that drives our local economy."

Most of the spending/jobs are related to lodging, food, and beverage service (52 percent) followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment/amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent).

The figures are based on $12 billion of direct spending by 281 million visitors in 394 national parks and nearby communities and are included in an annual, peer-reviewed, visitor spending analysis conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of Michigan State University for the National Park Service.

Across the U.S, local visitor spending added a total of $31 billion to the national economy and supported more than 258,000 jobs, an increase of $689 million and 11,500 jobs over 2009.

To download the report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM and click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

For more on how the NPS is working within South Dakota, go to www.nps.gov/southdakota

Source: NPS

20th International Karstological School "Classical karst" Karst Forms and Processes

The web page of 20th International Karstological School is now accessible at:
http://iks.zrc-sazu.si/en/index.html

There you can find basic information on the upcomming school, archives of the past schools, REGISTRATION FORM and PAYMENT DETAILS.

Poetry: Speleology

"Speleology" is a film by Duriel E. Harris and Scott Rankin, featuring poetry by Duriel E. Harris. The film was completed in October 2011. It was first screened publicly at the International Literary Film Festival in NYC, November 2011.





Source: Literary Film Festival

Monday, February 27, 2012

Scientists report first evidence of flu in bats; never-before-seen virus found in Guatemala

For the first time, scientists have found evidence of flu in bats, reporting a never-before-seen virus whose risk to humans is unclear.

The surprising discovery of genetic fragments of a flu virus is the first well-documented report of it in the winged mammals. So far, scientists haven't been able to grow it, and it's not clear if — or how well — it spreads.

Flu bugs are common in humans, birds and pigs and have even been seen in dogs, horses, seals and whales, among others. About five years ago, Russian virologists claimed finding flu in bats, but they never offered evidence.

"Most people are fairly convinced we had already discovered flu in all the possible" animals, said Ruben Donis, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who co-authored the new study.

Scientists suspect that some bats caught flu centuries ago and that the virus mutated within the bat population into this new variety. Scientists haven't even been able to grow the new virus in chicken eggs or in human cell culture, as they do with more conventional flu strains.

Antiquities officials catch thieves in ancient cave

Five would-be tomb robbers apprehended at a 2,000-year-old site near the city of Modi’in


One of the sites near Modi'in
targeted by the antiquity
theft suspects.
Israeli officers arrested five would-be antiquities thieves in a cave at an ancient site between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.

The men, West Bank Palestinians, were apprehended after a scuffle with antiquities inspectors early Saturday, according to the statement. They had been spotted scouring the site with a metal detector, and are suspected of looting other sites in the same area near the city of Modi’in.

Among those sites was one given a cryptic mention in the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as a possible location for the burial of the treasures of the Jewish Temple. According to the Antiquities Authority, that mention has made the site a popular target for thieves.

The suspects also managed to uncover a Jewish ritual bath that dates from the time of the Second Temple and was not previously known to archaeologists, according to the statement. However valuable the find, however, the men also destroyed important archaeological layers and “brought about the loss of much knowledge about the historical background of the area,” the statement said.

The men remain under arrest.

Source: Times Of Israel

Jobs in Cave Conservation

The Sequoia Natural History Association is looking for conservation minded individuals to lead tours of this unique and popular cave this summer season. Leading tours of Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park, California, is a great way to share your love of cave conservation with visitors from all around the world. We are currently hiring several Cave Naturalists who love to talk with people concerning cave topics (history, conservation, ethics, karst geology, biology, etc) in one of the most stunning settings in North America. Tour season begins mid-May and lasts through October, with our Cave Naturalist positions ranging from the full season, to anywhere in between.

For more information please check out our website: http://www.sequoiahistory.org

Applications can be downloaded there, as well as more information about Crystal Cave and our tour operations.

Our job announcement will also be found in the March and April issues of NSS News.

Thank You for your time,
Beth Hunkins, NSS #57655
Crystal Cave Manager, Sequoia Natural History Association

Trip Report Howe Caverns

Last week Karst Worlds reported how cavers could participate in a trip into Howe Caverns for a good cause. Cavechat member Nathan Roser aka muddyface was one of the participants:
So last Saturday the 25th, eighteen northeastern cavers got special access to the undeveloped upstream section of Howe's Cave to do some surveying and photography. We did all donate some money to the flood relief efforts around Schoharie as part of the whole deal. We took the normal way in through the elevator and went on the brick path to the end and then suited up. After passing through the Fat Man's Misery and to the Great Rotunda the group started splitting up. Almost everyone at one point or another went into the Lake of Mystery to push the low airspace and get to the upstream ends to survey and take pictures. Luke and I along with another SUOC member Abbe stayed behind and started snapping pictures. Soon soaking wet and cold cavers started trickling back in saying the water was high and the airspace got lower and lower (down to less than 2 inches). This pretty much killed everyone's hopes for what we all wanted to do that day. Eventually Luke, Abbe, and I decided to give the water a go. I went in first with Luke behind and then Abbe. We soon had to remove helmets and the passage did keep getting lower and lower. There were a few times my eyes went under and I swallowed some water and considered turning back, Abbe did turn back due to cold water but Luke and I kept going. At this point the way forward involved scraping your nose against the ceiling to move between wedge shaped ceiling channels that would allow you to look forward for a bit and keep your eyes above water, but not your mouth. After hopping or rather dipping between the channels I found my foot was no longer able to touch the ceiling so I went there and was finally able to stand up! Luke followed behind. At this point we wish we had brought cameras with us because we did not want to make a return trip through the water to get them. So we pushed upstream instead. This section of the cave has been mapped before but has only been visited by very few people. We encountered another low airspace that was easier than the first, then lots of belly crawling over sharp breakdown with soda straws above us. We eventually got to another low water passage and swam through. This led to a junction that was the end of the mapped passage. A previous trip reported the cave continued several hundred feet beyond. From here the cave became a very narrow stream canyon with lots of floor potholes, sketchy looking breakdown, crawling sideways, and alternating levels. This led after hundreds of feet to a pretty football shaped pool in the floor about 2 feet wide, 7 feet long and too deep for me to stand in. The pool did appear to bell out towards the bottom so if someone was insane and masochistic enough they could haul dive gear up there because it looks big enough to dive. We turned around and headed back, but were rather confused because nothing seemed familiar and we might have taken a lower level of the canyon back. After getting back to where the passage was mapped we saw some names written in the mud from 1955. We kept retracing the way back and got back to the low airspace that had stopped everyone else. At this point we'd been gone for around 2 hours and didn't want anyone to worry so I began shouting that we're safe and coming back. We got out of the water and told the story to everyone there but by now the news crews were long gone :(. The trip was pretty tough, I got some bleeding on my hand, holes in my wetsuit, and several large tears in the clothes I had on over the wetsuit. Would I do it again and survey that, yes! Then everyone began heading out while we stayed behind for a bit of fun in a side dome with lots of sticky mud. We then returned to the commercial trail, put on clean clothes and went back up the elevator to the main building. About an hour later they had a complimentary dinner ready for all the cavers and after that we got a free tour of the rest of the cave. Thanks to Chuck Porter for organizing the whole thing.

Cave and karst student scholarships

The Western Kentucky University Hoffman Environmental Research Institute is pleased to offer two new award competitions for karst education.

1. The Nick Crawford Karst Education Scholarship will provide financial support for one student per year to attend a weeklong course in WKU's 2012 Karst Field Studies program (http://karstfieldstudies.com) as a non-credit workshop or for university credit at the Western Kentucky University Karst Field Studies Program. The successful applicant will receive: 1) reimbursement on round trip travel costs to the course location up to $1000, 2) a waiver of the fees if taking the course for a workshop ($500) or $500 credited to tuition for those taking a course for graduate or undergraduate credit, 3) free shared bunkhouse accommodation at the Cave Research Foundation's Hamilton Valley Research Station near Mammoth Cave National Park where most courses are held, or $100 credit toward shared accommodation in the Missouri Ozark's or New Mexico Geophysics Courses, and 4) a $150 stipend. For an application and complete information please see http://karstfieldstudies.com/scholarship.php. The scholarship is made possible with the generous support of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, the Stan and Kay Sides Environmental Education Fund, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

2. Student Research Grant for Karst Groundwater Flow Studies
The Hoffman Institute's Crawford Hydrology Laboratory is pleased to announce a new initiative to help support student research. The Laboratory will provide an award two times per year of up to $1,000 each through a proposal competition to offer undergraduate and/or graduate research support for fluorescence laboratory products and services used in groundwater tracing investigations.

Awards will cover up to $700 for laboratory analytical costs, up to $300 applied to dye tracing supplies such as charcoal receptors, fluorescent dye, and mailing of samples.

Any full-time undergraduate or graduate student enrolled at an accredited university with an endorsement from a full-time faculty member of that university. Proposals from high school students may be considered with additional supporting documentation as described in the application packet. Applicants are eligible for the award once per calendar year.

Proposals should be limited to projects that can be completed within 12 months from the start of the project. Awards are limited to a maximum of $1,000 per project.

For application details please see http://hoffmanworld.org/dyetracing2/?page_id=579.

Bones found in cave are around 3,500 years old

Human remains dating back 3,500 years have been discovered in a cavern in the Peak District.

Part of a shin bone belonging to a Bronze Age human was found in a chamber towards the top of Blue John Cavern in Castleton by a group surveying all the Castleton caves as part of a project to produce a 3D model.

They found the four-inch section of tibia, along with an antler and a dog’s skull.

Specialist carbon dating tests have revealed the human bone is around 3,500 years old.

Dave Nixon, aged 44, of Tideswell, who was among the group which made the find, has spent the last 25 years exploring the caves and making a number of discoveries.

But he said he was delighted to have found the artefacts in a new section of the cavern they had not been into before.

“Exploring the caves is an obsession of mine and we have found various bits and pieces over the years,” he told The Star.

Proposal put to privatise caves

Cr Mike Augee, a proud advocate of the Wellington Caves believes Council has to balance the yawning gap between its business interest and that of preserving the world-class complex.

Cr Augee told councillors as trustees of the caves they had a duty of care and the same duty as councillors.

At the ordinary meeting of Wellington Council, the councillor also described to his fellow councillors the many concerns about a recent meeting as ‘soul destroying, a great disappointment and demoralising’.

The councillor supports the privatisation of the caves resources and the lease of it to an operator who can assist in marketing and promoting them.

“We are there to protect this reserve,” he told the councillors in what could be called an impassioned plea for the future direction of Wellington’s best-known site and the balance he believes can be found.

But others have problems with the future of the caves site including cave specialist Keir Vaughan Taylor who wrote to the council expressing concern.

Girl rescued from Peak district cave

A teenage girl had to be rescued from a Peak District cave after slipping and injuring her back.

The 14-year-old was part of a larger group exploring Bagshawe Cavern in Bradwell when she slipped on wet rock and fell.

Derbyshire Police took a 999 call about the incident at around 4.45pm on Sunday, February 26, and called for assistance from the Cave Rescue organisation to help get the girl out.

Cave Rescue arrived at the cave and found the girl inside with another child and two adults, with the rest of the group waiting outside. The teenager was rescued by around 7pm and an ambulance was called to take her to hospital.

Source: Derbyshire Times

Cuba’s Highest Cave Found in Sancti Spiritus

The highest cave in Cuba, that is the cave with the highest entrance, was recently discovered by specialists from the province of Sancti Spiritus, at the Guahamuaya massif, located in that province of central Cuba.

According to the Escambray newspaper's online version, the limestone cavity was named Furnia de los Perros and its entrance is located at 1,029 meters above sea level. Sancti Spirtus' president of the Cuban Speleological Society told the daily the second highest cavern is also located in the Guahamuaya massif, at 950 meters above sea level.

The Guahamuaya massif is also home to the lowest cave of the island named Cuba-Hungría, whose entrance is at 440 below sea level, and it was discovered by the Sama speleologist group from Sancti Spiritus.

This group also spotted the world's biggest stalagmite, 67 meters, at the Martín Infierno cave located in the same massif of the central province of Cuba

Source: TV Camaguëy

Sunday, February 26, 2012

1,500-year-old handwritten Bible newly-discovered in Turkey includes depiction of Last Supper

he Bible is now under the care of the Ethnography Museum.
A handwritten Bible, believed to be 1,500 years old and is recently kept in the Ethnography Museum of Turkish capital Ankara, includes a drawing of the Last Supper, local media reports said on Friday.

The 52-page Bible is written in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, and consists the depiction of the Last Supper, which shows Jesus dining with his 12 Apostles, and also a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus, a symbol of the sun and a cross, according to Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman.

The report added that there is also a depiction of a cave and a large rock which are thought to be the grave of Jesus.

Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay confirmed on Thursday that the 1,500-year-old Bible was discovered by policeman during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000 and is currently being kept in Ankara, according to Today's Zaman.

Cave of the Winds, Then and Now

This image of miner Donald G. Davis is from "Cave of the
Winds, Then and Now," a study in contrasts of the cavern's
130-year history as a tourist destination. (Norman Thompson)
Cave of the Winds is  a collection of weird formations inside a cavern set in a picturesque mountain canyon near Colorado Springs.

The cave, open since 1881, attracts some 150,000 visitors a year to view its cavernous rooms, as well as stalactites that make up a horseshoe tunnel and calcite deposits shaped like a skeleton and a bat. The attractions have such names as the Temple of Silence, the Valley of Dreams and the Adventure Room.


Photographers along with tourists were intrigued by the cave in the early years, and there are a multitude of
historic snapshots and stereopticon views of the attractions, many of them spooky, the light casting ominous shadows on the cave walls.

Norman Thompson replicates those old pictures of the cave and the countryside around it with a series of then-and-now shots. The Cave of the Winds hasn't changed much in 130 years, but the people have. Early visitors wore suits, ties and high collars with watch chains draped across their vests, a contrast to today's tourists in jeans and sweat shirts.

Source: Denver Post

Amarnath Yatra duration shrunken by three weeks

For 2012 pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath, pilgrims will have to produce a health fitness certificate and the tracks will be open only for 37 days. The decisions announced Sunday were taken on basis of past experiences of problems in clearing the tracks in time and the crisis that aged and frail faced uphill.

The pilgrimage will start on June 25 and will conclude on August 2, coinciding with the Rakhsha Bandnan. The shrine got a record 634 thousand pilgrims in 2011 which was a huge jump over 458 thousand pilgrims that it got in 2010.

Reduction in the duration of yatra was suggested by a sub committee led by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker. "Consequent to detailed deliberations, the Board accepted the recommendations of the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sub-committee and directed the CEO of the Board to timely commence the registration of pilgrims and ensure the effective management of the yatra which would commence on June 25 and conclude on Raksha Bandhan on August 2," a SASB spokesperson said.

Oldest instrument is dug up in Skye cave

The remains of what could be the oldest stringed instrument to be found in Europe have been discovered in a remote cave on Skye.

The burnt fragment was dug up last year during an archaeological project. It is believed to be at least 1,500 years old and pre-dates any similar item previously found on the continent.

The artefact, which resembles a bridge of an early stringed instrument, was unearthed in Skye’s High Pasture Cave – a focus of Bronze Age and Iron Age research since 1972 – and is currently being examined by experts at Historic Scotland.

Rod McCullagh, a Historic Scotland Archaeologist, said: “The cave has provided many fascinating discoveries, including a burnt fragment of a small wooden object that we have asked experts to study as it appears to be the bridge of a stringed instrument.”

Until now the oldest stringed instruments found in Europe have been lyre harps dated around 600AD, which were played by Vikings throughout Scandinavia.

However most of the artefacts discovered at the High Pasture Cave are much older, with many of the finds dating back to the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age, up to 2,000 years earlier.

Annual Hindu pilgrimage of Amarnath to start June 25

The annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine of Lord Shiva, in the south Kashmir Himalayas, will commence on June 25 this year.

It will last till Aug 2, according to a spokesman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the pilgrimage.

This decision was taken by the board at a meeting held in New Delhi Friday, the details of which were circulated to the media Saturday.

The logic behind having the pilgrimage for 39 days was the hostile weather conditions, which resulted in 107 deaths last year, when the pilgrimage commenced June 28 and lasted till Aug 13.

The cave shrine is situated at a height of 3,888 metres above sea level and has two routes leading to it, one from Pahalgam, about 100 km from Srinagar, and another from Baltal, 110 km from Srinagar.

The pilgrimage routes pass through high mountains and glaciers, involving a steep climb, and most of the track, despite clearance of snow, is slippery and full of slush, making it difficult for the pilgrims to negotiate the tortuous terrain.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Clapham cave rescuer receives his MBE

Rae Lonsdale with his MBE
A retired national park stalwart and long-time rescue team member has received his MBE from the Queen.

Rae Lonsdale of Settle in North Yorkshire said he has had to put up with good-humoured ribbing but also received compliments from friends and colleagues after his appointment.

The 64-year-old is a member of the Cave Rescue Organisation, which goes to the aid of both potholers and fellwalkers in the Yorkshire Dales, and retired last year from the national park authority.

He received his medal for voluntary service in North Yorkshire in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

He said: “The past few weeks have been a bit unreal.

“There has been the good-natured leg-pulling and curtseying from some of my more comical acquaintances, but also the congratulations from many people, to say nothing of the anticipation and reality of the visit to Buckingham Palace.

“When Her Majesty said ‘You seem to have done a lot’, I just said that I hadn’t done anything I hadn’t enjoyed.

European Neanderthals Were On the Verge of Extinction Even Before the Arrival of Modern Humans

Teeth from a Neanderthal boy,
Northern Spain.
New findings from an international team of researchers show that most Neanderthals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable Neanderthal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived must therefore be revised.

This new perspective on the Neanderthals comes from a study of ancient DNA published February 25 in Molecular Biology and Evolution.

The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture.

The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid.

“The fact that Neanderthals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought”, says Love Dalén, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bat colony faces cave new world

Bones excavated from the Great Cave of Niah in Borneo
show that the bat population has dwindled
Zooarchaeology, which uses animal bones to study the history of biological diversity, reveals that bat populations have dwindled

The “changing of the guard” at the Great Cave of Niah in Malaysian Borneo is a wildlife wonder. Every evening at dusk two great black clouds intermingle, as up to half a million bats fly out for their nightly forage in the forest, while a similar number of swiftlets return to roost. At dawn the traffic is reversed.

The diurnal mass exchange of bats and birds has taken place for at least 50,000 years – and previously on an even larger scale than today – according to evidence collected by practitioners of zooarchaeology, an emerging scientific field that uses ancient animal bones to study the history of biological diversity.

The results show that, in the broadest terms, the local ecology is the same as it was 50,000 years ago. The cave has been surrounded by closed-canopy rainforest throughout the period, Stimpson says, “in contrast to studies that have suggested the periodic replacement of lowland tropical forest by savannah-like habitats.” But more detailed examination of the bones shows significant changes, some of them brought about by humans, who started visiting the Great Cave more than 45,000 years ago.Chris Stimpson, a zooarchaeologist at Cambridge University, has studied 12,000 bat bones and 1,400 bird bones excavated from the Great Cave.

Stone Age pebble may be oldest engraving ever

Scientists concluded that humans intentionally made the
sub-parallel linear incisions on this Middle Stone Age
ochre pebble.
Found in South Africa, the meaning of this colorful 100,000-year-old relic is a mystery

A colorful pebble bearing a sequence of linear incisions may be the world's oldest engraving.

The object, which will be described in the April issue of the Journal of Archaeology, dates back about 100,000 years ago and could also be the world’s oldest known abstract art. It was recovered from Klasies River Cave in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

“Associated human remains indicate that the engraved piece was certainly made by Homo sapiens,” co-author Riaan Rifkin of the University of Witwatersrand’s Institute for Human Evolution told Discovery News.

Rifkin and colleagues Francesco d’Errico and Renata Garcia Moreno performed extensive non-invasive analyses of the object. Methods like X-ray fluorescence and microscopic analysis enabled the researchers to examine every minute detail of the ochre pebble, which appears to have split off from a once larger piece.

The scientists conclude that humans intentionally made the sub-parallel linear incisions on the Middle Stone Age pebble.

Cavers going underground to help NY flood victims

Cave explorers from three Northeast states are getting the opportunity to map and photograph rarely seen underground passages in upstate New York.

Organizers of Saturday's event at Howe Caverns in Schoharie (skoh-HAYR'-ee) County tell the Daily Gazette of Schenectady (http://bit.ly/zSiB8w ) that 20 expert cavers from New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey have paid $100 each to explore parts of the massive cave system that aren't open to the public for tours.

The proceeds will be donated to local food relief efforts. Parts of the rural county located 30 miles southwest of Albany were devastated by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene last August.

The cavers plan to explore what's known as the Mystery Passage, a section of the cave system known to have been explored only a half-dozen times.

From Caves to Stonehenge, Ancient Peoples Painted with Sound

Stone Age cave paintings evoke reverent silence in most people. But David Lubman, Miriam Kolar, and Steve Waller prefer to shout and clap instead.

They are among a growing number of researchers probing the acoustic properties of ancient sites. Their research, presented this week in Vancouver, British Columbia at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, shows that ancient peoples created sophisticated sonic illusions in ceremonial spaces ranging from Mayan temples to Stonehenge.

Humanity's fascination with sound runs deep. In Utah's Horseshoe Canyon, ancient people drew artwork where echoes are loudest. Around the world, Stone Age artists typically painted in caverns with the greatest reverberation.

Lubman, a consultant in acoustics, speculates that the association between art and echoes was originally unintended. Instead, ancient artists painted on solid rock because porous rock absorbed their pigments. Solid rock created better echoes.

"Such resonant spaces inspire singing," Lubman said.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New manual for MkVI Discovery


Download here the latest version of the MKVI User Guide version 2.2

And the Poseidon MKVI Configuration Tool V 1.12

More information:
http://www.poseidon.com/support/mkvi

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Spring Break 2012

Many people visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park during spring break. So, in anticipation of the increased interest, the park will offer two additional Kings Palace Ranger Guided tours from Saturday March 10 -Saturday March 17 -- tour times will be 10:00, 11:00, 1:00 and 2:00.

Normally during the off-season, between and Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends, these tours are only offered twice daily, at 10:00 and 1:00.

The Kings Palace Ranger Guided tour winds through four rooms, historically called the Scenic Rooms, of Carlsbad Cavern as the Park Ranger describes the history and geology of the features. The tour takes about one and half hours and includes a blackout, so that visitors can experience the cave as it is naturally. In addition to the general entry ticket, Kings Palace

Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for Senior Pass cardholders and children ages 4-15; children under age 4 no allowed.

Source: Carlsbad Current-Argus

Summer 2012 Karst Field Studies Program

The Hoffman Environmental Research Institute through its Center for Cave and Karst Studies and in cooperation with the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning and Western Kentucky University, are pleased to announce the launch of the Summer 2012 Karst Field Studies Program. Courses this summer will include:

  • Exploration of Mammoth Cave, June 4-10 
  • Techniques in Karst Groundwater Investigations, June 6-8 
  • Karst Hydrogeology of the Ozarks, June 10-16 
  • Cave Archaeology, June 11-16 
  • Cave Survey and Cartography, June 17-23 
  • Application of Geophysical Methods to Karst Terrains, June 16-22 
Courses may be taken for graduate, undergraduate, or continuing education credit. Courses may also be taken as non-credit workshops.

For more information about the program, courses, how to register, and instructors, please visit www.karstfieldstudies.com. While visiting the website be sure to also check out the "Scholarships" tab for information about Nick Crawford Karst Education Scholarship, a competitive award designed to offer financial assistance for attending a course.

If you have any questions please contact the 2012 Karst Field Studies Director, Dr. Leslie North, at leslie.north@wku.edu.

2012 NSS Salons: DEADLINES !

NSS Art & Music Salons promote and recognize excellent cave-related art, artists, and musicians. NSS Salons are open to everyone; those who enter need not be members of the NSS. Kindly refer to Salon web pages for entry fees and details.

COVER ART. Printed cave publication covers
http://www.caves.org/committee/salons/Cover%20Art.shtml
DEADLINE: March 25, 2012.

All entries must be mailed to Brian Killingbeck (316 Tremont St., Apt 2, Chattanooga,TN 37405), with Entry Form, and received no later than March 25, 2012.
ENTRY FORM: http://www.caves.org/committee/salons/coverentry.pdf
ENTRY FEE: $6.00 per organization, regardless of the number of covers submitted.
MORE INFORMATION: Brian at coverartsalon@caves.org.

PHOTOS. Photographic slides & digital images
http://www.caves.org/committee/salons/Slide.shtml
DEADLINE: March 30, 2012.
Entries mailed to Cady Soukup (P.O. Box 600 Flint Hill VA 22627-0600; cady@mindwrap.com) to arrive no later than March 30, 2012. If you have trouble with the deadline, please contact Cady before March 30. No more than 30 entries per photographer.
ENTRY FORM: http://www.caves.org/committee/salons/photoentry.pdf
MORE INFORMATION: Contact Ray Cole / Cady Soukup at photosalon@caves.org.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nerja caves discovery will bring more visitors, it is hoped

It is already the third most visited sight in Spain.

But the ‘academic bombshell’ that paintings at Nerja caves could be the oldest in existence is expected to take the tourist attraction to entirely new levels.

The discovery came when charcoal pigments next to the six seal images were sent to Miami and found to be 43,000 years old.

If the artwork is the same age – analysis which will be produced in 2013 – it means it was created by Neanderthals, and not Homo sapiens as was previously thought.

Nerja mayor Jose Alberto Armijo has since called for financial support, adding that the find will bring more people to Nerja and hopefully enable the town, whose visitor numbers have dwindled of late, to attract 500,000 annual visitors.

Cave complicates LG&E's plans for waste landfill near Trimble County plant

A cave sits on land in Trimble County where LG&E wants
to build a waste landfill. KY. Division of Waste Management
Is it a cave, or merely a “cave-like feature” on a Trimble County landscape?

The distinction could mean higher costs at one of Louisville Gas and Electric Co.’s largest coal-generating plants, the Trimble Generating Station , where plans for a new coal-burning waste landfill may wind up in a legal dispute.

With the plant’s ash storage ponds filling up along the Ohio River, and ash-pond safety now a national concern, LG&E has been planning on stockpiling its ash and scrubber waste in a new, presumably more environmentally friendly landfill to be built on 218 acres of company-owned property nearby. Those plans are now in question.

The plant produces about 1 million tons per year of the combustion wastes, and an LG&E official warned this week that if the utility can’t build its Trimble landfill, it may have to haul the waste to its Mill Creek power plant landfill in Louisville.

Cave consisting of old stones carved in various arts, shapes discovered in Khalanga

A new and very strange cave has been discovered at the Nuwakot VDC, south of the district headquarters, Khalanga of Rukum district.

The cave at Dayalekh in Nuwakot-2 throws light to the jungle of Dayalekh, RSS reports.

The eight-meter deep and four-meter wide cave also consists of old stones carved out in the shape of Lord Shiva, Ganesh and a cow, and arts and shapes of various kinds.

The cave was reportedly discovered by herdsmen as they were taking goats for grazing inside the jungle.

Meanwhile, marking the Shivaratri festival, the Dayalekh Cave Protection Committee organized a fair at the cave premises.

The cave will now be preserved in order to support tourism promotion in the area, says local Bir Bahadur Khadka.

Source: Nepalnews

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Italy outrage over plot to commercialise Blue Grotto

Capri's Blue Grotto is renowned for its iridescent
shades of cobalt and turquoise
A plan to commercialise Capri's famous Blue Grotto sea cave by installing floating booms on which businesses could advertise has sparked indignation in Italy.

The mayor of the tiny island, a byword for glitz and glamour, says the plan would bring in much needed revenue at a time when its budget has been slashed by government cuts.

The Blue Grotto – or 'Grotta Azzurra' – is a cavern at the base of tall limestone cliffs which is renowned for its iridescent shades of cobalt and turquoise and attracts more than a quarter of a million visitors a year.

Ciro Lembo, the mayor, wants to instal floating pontoons emblazoned with commerical logos anchored 50 yards from the cave entrance.

Mr Lembo said the bill for maintaining the island's public spaces would come to five million euros this year but the council only had four million euros in its coffers.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Research reveals water management and climate change in ancient Maya city

Meticulous mapping and excavations at an ancient cave in the Yucatan Peninsula are revealing the vitality of the site to the ancient Maya – for both religious ritual and human survival. The University of Cincinnati research will be a key topic of discussion on Feb. 24, at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in New York.

The city is located in the elevated Puuc Region of the Yucatan in Mexico. The city – featuring a great pyramid and other elaborate architecture – was built above one of the few cave systems in the region that penetrates the permanent water table. Mapping and excavations of the ancient city revealed a network of cisterns and reservoirs that fed the community’s water supply. The cave exploration has discovered hills of broken pottery and charred sacrifices, also indicating the cave was a key religious site that involved worship of the rain gods.

Researcher Nicholas Dunning, a UC professor of geography, says the cave, located in the ancient ruins of the city of Xcoch, was used continuously from at least 800 BC until the 19th century, when it was still used for rituals. UC geography doctoral student Eric Weaver has led a team mapping Xcoch Cave, assisted by other experienced cavers including UC biology graduate students Beth Cortright and Jane Slater.

“This is in a region that has no surface water,” says Dunning. “There are only a handful of caves that go deep enough to get to the permanent water table, so for anyplace that’s bone dry for five months out of the year, this is a pretty special location.”

White-Nose Syndrome Webinar Series

On January 27, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held the first of a series of WNS webinars. This one was targeted specifically to state and federal agency biologists and land managers as a training seminar. We asked for both the NSS and cave conservancies to be able to participate, but were declined. Instead, they pledged to put as much up on line as possible, and also to include a broader audience in the next two: for educators and communicators late winter or early spring; and for the general public later spring, once this season's bat survey figures are in.

In the meantime, USFWS removed agency-specific information as well as proprietary scientific information (unpublished and not yet peer reviewed), but posted the rest of the presentations. Here is the link:

http://nctc.fws.gov/CSP/Resources/white_nose_syndrome_webinar_series/home.html

Click on the link and follow the link to the Archive of past White-Nose Syndrome webinars. USFWS says that "all of the content on the Archive can be shared with the public, so please feel free to forward this link to anyone that is interested."

While I've personally only viewed two of them to date, I did note that the last one, which deals with decon protocols, does include the new "hot water" standard, replacing the former "boiling water" standard. Specifically, immersing gear in water >50 degrees Celsius (122F) for at least 15 minutes will kill the fungus.

We are still waiting for the new formal national WNS decon protocol to be posted, but clearly USFWS is already publicizing and training on this standard. I think this is an important development, as it is both a non-chemical alternative, safer for the environment and for humans to handle, and easier to accomplish than boiling water.

Source: Peter Youngbaer @ Cavechat

Cave similar to Bhimbetka found in MP

Madhya Pradesh Archaeological Department has found a rare one-km-long cave in Raisen district similar to the famous world heritage site Bhimbetka, which is home to the rare rock paintings.

The one-km-long cave has been identified as "Mrigendranath Cave" near Patni village in Raisen district and Neely 80 km away from Bhimbetka, an official release said here today.

The Minister for Culture and Public Relations along with Secretary Culture Manoj Shrivastava and Commissioner Archaeology, JL Malpani visited the spot by walking for nearly three km from Patni village to reach Mrigendranath cave.

The cave's entry is so narrow that only one person at a time can enter it by virtually crawling, but once inside it is a huge and long cave having images of various gods, it said.

On entering inside one encounters the image of Lord Bajrangbali (Hanuman) and feet of Lord Shiva carved neatly carved on a stone, the release said.

There are different kinds of natural stone resembling Gajanan, crocodile, frog, Govardhan and Siddha Baba it said.

The experts also found Gupta Godavari cave, Vindhyachal cave figures of Gajanan and fish, seven Yagna Kunds and Dhunis inside it, the release said.

The government is planning to develop the spot as a major tourist attraction by launching preservation and beautification drive.

Source: Zeenews

Holy Ice-lingam melts in Amarnath cave shrine

The holy Ice Lingam of Lord Shiva, built automatically inside the cave shrine of Amarnath, has melted completely due to heavy influx of pilgrims this year. However, notwithstanding the condition of Ice Lingam, a batch of 1,455 pilgrims left here Tuesday for onward journey to the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas.

Comprising 863 men, 169 women, 35 children and 388 sadhus, the 32nd batch left from the base camp at Bhagwati Nagar here in a fleet of 41 vehicles at 1130 hours, officials said.

The pilgrims are expected to reach their respective destinations of Baltal and Nunwan in Pahalgam base camps by this evening, they said.

With today's batch, as many as 76,435 pilgrims have left from here to perform darshan of the naturally formed Ice-lingam at the 3,888 metre high cave shine.

Source: Zeenews

Tassili-n-Ajjer rock art is at least 9000 years old

Tassili-n-Ajjer is a mountain range in the Algerian section of the Sahara Desert. The range is noted for its prehistoric rock art and other ancient archaeological sites, dating from Neolithic times when the local climate was much moister, with savannah rather than desert. 

The art depicts herds of cattle, large wild animals including crocodiles, and human activities such as hunting and dancing. The art has strong stylistic links to the pre-Nguni Art of South Africa and the region, executed in caves by the San Peoples before the year 1200 BCE. 

The range's exceptional density of rock art paintings-pictograms and engravings-petroglyphs, and the presence of many prehistoric vestiges, are remarkable testimonies to Neolithic prehistory. As from 1933, the date of its discovery 15,000 petroglyphs have been identified to date. 

Using OSL techniques archeologists discovered that the famous rock art site of the Central Sahara can be dated to 9-10 millennia ago or older.

DHEC: 2nd bat found at school is not rabid

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control said Friday that a second bat that was found at Fountain Inn Elementary School on Thursday was not rabid.

On Wednesday, a bat got into the classroom area where students and a teacher were present and was captured by school staff, according to Myrick. He said the bat tested negative for rabies.Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Adam Myrick said the school has had a problem with bats for about three weeks and they have been working with a bat-removal company.

On Thursday, Greenville County Schools spokesman Oby Lyles said school was dismissing early when another bat was found in the music room. He said the animal was turned over to DHEC for testing.

Lyles said as a precautionary measure, school was dismissed early. He said any students at the school after 1 p.m. would be transported to Hillcrest High School, where they would be supervised by staff until they were picked up.

Lyles said that the school would be closed on Friday, while school leaders meet with DHEC officials, the animal removal company and a bat expert from Clemson University.

Lyles said school officials will decide Sunday if classes will resume on Tuesday. Greenville County students have Monday off for Presidents' Day.

Bats are gone, Fountain Inn Elementary to reopen Tuesday

Fountain Inn Elementary School will reopen Tuesday after bat removal specialists checked all areas of the school and determined that hundreds of bats that had plagued the school for weeks and forced it release students early last Thursday and close Friday have since left the building.

School district maintenance personnel and an animal removal company checked all areas of the school multiple times and peered into interior walls and above ceiling tiles and have not seen any bats since Friday, according to a school announcement sent out by Principal Glen Wile.

Crews found a major colony of about 400 bats that was located inside the exterior walls of the gymnasium. A second group of 11 bats was found inside an exterior wall on the other side of the building, he said.

Wile said that “all areas of the school have been checked multiple times for bats. No bats have been found in the school — in classrooms, above ceiling tiles, or inside walls.”

The school installed valves in exterior walls that allowed the roosting bats to fly out but not return, he said. Crews sealed other access points into the building and installed screens over exhaust fans in the school gymnasium where the bats were first seen more than three weeks ago, he said.

The school was thoroughly disinfected and bat droppings were cleaned from the roof, he said. No droppings were found inside the school itself, but only on the roof and inside walls, he said.

“This evidence supports our belief that only a few bats were in occupied areas and only for a short time,” Wile said.

Crews removed droppings from the roof and disinfected all areas.Droppings were left inside the walls and Wile said they were assured those droppings were contained and of no danger.

Parents were to be notified through electronic telephone calls and a posting on the school's website, said Oby Lyles, school district spokesman.

Source: Greenville Online

Rs 20,000 crore treasure hidden in Hyderabad cave?

The hunt for a reported treasure trove in the heart of Hyderabad city by the state archaeological department was suspended on Monday afternoon after a two-day digging operation did not yield any results. The search may resume on Tuesday. Mohammed Siddique reports.

Chenna Reddy, director, AP archaeological department, said that the excavation with an earth-mover machine was suspended as they could not find any signs of a cave or tunnel where some people claimed to have seen a treasure trove more than a year ago.

"We have requested the National Mineral Development Corporation to provide us sophisticated geological sensor equipment to pinpoint the location of an underground tunnel," he said.

A team of officials of NMDC visited the site of the excavation in a private school premises in Saifabad area of Hyderabad which is bang opposite the state secretariat.

The NMDC was likely to send a team of experts with equipment to help in the search operation on Tuesday.

The archaeological department personnel started the digging operation at the bottom of the famous Naubat Pahad from inside the school premises on the basis of information provided by a group of nine people including D S Rama Raju, a Coal India Ltd official.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Health Richmond Memorial Hospital Closed Due To Colony of Bats

A Rockingham hospital has temporarily closed its doors until a colony of bats can be removed.

Officials with FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital said Saturday that no new patients would be accepted and existing patients had been moved out for the time being.

The hospital has been working with a professional bat removal service to expel the bats, which have been living in the walls. Hospital employees called county officials about the problem on Friday, and teams inspected air handling units, patient rooms, common areas and ceiling tiles, among other areas.

Richmond County health inspectors say there is no evidence of bat droppings inside the hospital, and there should be no lingering risks to patients or employees.

Source: DigTriad

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Construction Workers Discover Magnificent Cave in Crete

Workers placing new biological treatment pipes in the village Fodele of the Municipality of Malevizio, Crete, came across a magnificent cave of stalagmites and stalactites on February 14.

The workers immediately contacted the president of the local community, Mr. G. Fakounakis, as well as the Mayor, Mr. Constantine Mamoulakis, who visited the village along with the Vice Mayor Drakos Maris, officials of the local Municipal Enterprise for Water Supply and Sewerage, other Municipal services and the Municipality’s archaeologist, Mr. G. Tzorakis. The responsible Ephorate of Antiquities was also informed of the discovery although no ancient items have been revealed so far.

Archaeologists of the Ephorate scanned the field on February 16 to decide whether the cave covers all security measures in order to be included in the sites of the traditional village.

At the same time, for the protection of the passersby, a guard was placed outside the cave to prevent curious people or small children from entering the cave.

According to local Patris daily, the cave has already fuelled the locals’ imagination with lost treasures hidden inside of it. A group of teenagers has attacked the guard and the president of the community, while they attempted to enter the cave in spite of the security instructions and warnings.

Source: Greek reporter

Bats invade NC hospital

Bats have taken up residence at a hospital southwest of the Triangle.

First Health Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham has worked around the clock with a bat removal company to get the animals out of the building.

In the meantime, the hospital has had to move all of its patients out. The only people allowed to stay are those currently being treated in the Emergency Room.

Health inspectors have determined that there is no evidence of bat droppings in the hospital. Officials said once all the bats are removed, the hospital should not pose any lingering risk to patients or employees.

Source: ABC Local

Cave enthusiasts try to reclaim cavern buried in trash

Volunteers dig out tires and trash at the entrance of the
Goodwin Pit Cave. Photo by Samantha Edmondson.
Despite harsh temperatures in the low 20s last weekend, cave enthusiasts from all over the state began cleaning up a pit that has been used as an illegal dumping site for generations.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources dye-traced the water from Goodwin Sinkhole, and verified that water that drains into Goodwin Sinkhole flows underground and emerges 10 miles away at Ha Ha Tonka Spring.

Just outside Montreal is Goodwin Sinkhole and Goodwin Pit Cave, which are two important karst resources in Laclede County that affect water quality at Ha Ha Tonka Spring and the Lake of the Ozarks.

According to Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy (MCKC), Goodwin Sinkhole has been the site of illegal dumping, primarily of household goods and tires, since the late 1950s. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has dye-traced the water from Goodwin Sinkhole, and verified that water that drains into Goodwin Sinkhole flows underground and emerges 10 miles away at Ha Ha Tonka Spring, one of the 15 largest springs in Missouri that discharges almost 50 million gallons per day into the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.

For many decades, trash and debris have prevented normal water flow at the sinkhole and has caused pollution at Ha Ha Tonka Spring and the Lake of the Ozarks, according to MCKC.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bacteria On Cave Painting Offer Hope For New Super-Antibiotics

In 2003 scientists discovered pathogens on a Stone Age cave painting in Italy. After further research they found out that these pathogens could lead to a new type of super-antibiotics (see reference below).

According to reports, the ancient bacteria can produce the antibiotics "Cervimycin". This antibiotic will kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other resistant bacteria. 

Current research shows that when they suppressed the "CerJ" enzyme the bacteria produces even stronger antibiotics called "Cervimycin K".

Acccording to research team leader Christian Hurt Wake further study is necessary as this Cercimycin K still cannot be produced synthetically. The team is now looking at biotechnological alternatives. It may take up to 20 years before the new substance is fully tested and becomes available on the market.

Related research:
Cervimycin A–D: A Polyketide Glycoside Complex from a Cave Bacterium Can Defeat Vancomycin Resistance; Kerstin Herold Dr., Friedrich A. Gollmick Dr., Ingrid Groth Dr., Martin Roth Dr., Klaus-Dieter Menzel, Ute Möllmann Dr., Udo Gräfe Prof. Dr., Christian Hertweck Dr.; Chemistry - A European Journal Volume 11, Issue 19, pages 5523–5530, September 19, 2005; DOI: 10.1002/chem.200500320

Bats found near Fort Bend ISD school

Bats have been found near an elementary school in Fort Bend County.

The principal of Fleming Elementary, 14850 Bissonnet, sent parents a letter Thursday informing them of the situation.

Last week, custodians spotted the bats near school grounds. The bat colony is under a bridge near the school campus.

No students or staff have come into contact with the bats.

As a precaution, the school district's facilities department is in the process of inspecting and resealing all exterior openings around the building.

The Fort Bend County Animal Control should be notified at 281-342-1512 if bats are seen during the daytime inside homes or businesses.

Source: Click2Houston

Niah Cave artifacts on way home?

It would take two to three years for artifacts taken from Niah Cave in the 1950s by archaeologists from Nevada University, USA to be returned to the state.

According to Sarawak Museum Department director Ipoi Datan, the process of acquiring all 122 skeletons taken from Niah Cave in Miri was done with cooperation from the National Heritage Department.

“There are several procedures that we need to follow and it will take another two to three years before we will reach something,” Ipoi said when met by reporters after the launching of a photography exhibition at the Sarawak Art Museum yesterday.

It was Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud who brought up the subject when he officiated at the opening of an international seminar on Borneon Archaeology back in 2010. He said the artifacts were an important part of the state’s heritage.

The archaeologists who had taken the artifacts had made some initial reports on their study but none were ever published.

On another matter, Ipoi said the Sarawak Museum Department would come up with an exciting programme this year starting with a burial exhibition of various ethnic groups at Dewan Tun Abdul Razak and the Sarawak Beads Exhibition to be held in Banjarmasin in Kalimantan.

“We will also hold for the second time the Dino Trek exhibition in collaboration with Petroscience at Petroleum Museum in Miri.”

The Museum Department, he added, was assisting in the conservation work of a few traditional longhouses in the state.

Source: The Borneo Post

Tourism and Karst Areas magazine 2011 Vol. 4 (n°2)

A new edition of the Brazilian Tourism and Karst Areas magazine, (formerly known as Pesquisas em Turismo e Paisagens Cátsticas) is available.

TOURISM AND KARST AREAS – Volume 4 – N° 2 (2011) -
Download Complete Magazine (PDF - 5.16 MB)

Individual articles:

Vacancy for caver

As this vacancy is for a job in France the complete profile is left in French. 

Spéléologue de terrain confirmé(e) (H/F)
ENTREPRISE
Créée en 1999, l'association SYLVATROP œuvre pour la protection, la conservation, la gestion durable et participative de la biodiversité en milieu tropical. Elle intervient principalement en Afrique de l’Ouest.
Les capacités techniques et scientifiques de SYLVATROP lui permettent de contribuer à la mise en œuvre de solutions alternatives et durables, pour la préservation de la biodiversité et la gestion participative des ressources naturelles renouvelables des milieux tropicaux.
Depuis des missions d’inventaires et d’études d’impacts jusqu’à la mise en œuvre de programmes d’actions, SYLAVTROP travaille en partenariat avec les institutions et des entreprises privées, pour une plus grande efficacité environnementale.
SYLVATROP intervient à l’échelon international, à partir de Nantes, et plus particulièrement en Afrique de l’Ouest et en Afrique Centrale : Guinée, Libéria, Sierra Léone et République du Congo.
> Consultez la fiche entreprise de Association SYLVATROP 
POSTE
L’Association SYLVATROP a pour mission de contribuer activement à la conservation, à l’utilisation durable et participative de la biodiversité animale et végétale des milieux tropicaux.
Dans le cadre d'une étude d'impact environnemental, Sylvatrop recrute un(e) Spéléologue de terrain confirmé(e) pour mission en Afrique de l'Ouest (espaces naturels protégés).
CDD 1 mois minimum.
Conditions de vie rustiques.
Rémunération à négocier selon expérience. Frais de déplacement pris en charge (AR France-Guinée + trajets sur place).